Last week, for the first time ever, the food and drug administration approved a prescription medication made from marijuana components. Epidiolex contains a purified substance from marijuana that does not produce a high or euphoric effect. It won’t be available to very many people because it has only been approved to treat two rare and severe types of epilepsy.
15-year-old Catherine Carriker had her first seizure when she was just three years old.
Within a few months, Catherine’s uncontrolled epilepsy affected her motor functions and her speech, and the seizures just kept coming. “She can have as many as 50 seizures a day or as few as two or three,” said Terri Carriker, Catherine’s mother.
Seeing her daughter struggling convinced Terri to try everything she could to help. She even purchased medical marijuana illegally before Texas allowed people with Catherine’s condition to obtain it.
“And it was amazing, the benefit that it had for her,” Terri said.
About two years ago Catherine’s mom signed her up for a study to test out Epidiolex, a medication made with the marijuana component cannabidiol, or CBD, which is known to produce a relaxing effect on the brain. “It cut her seizure numbers approximately in half, it reduced the intensity in most of her seizures and the duration of them,” said Terri.
Catherine has been on Epidiolex ever since, with very few side effects. Last week, the FDA approved the medication for people with specific epileptic diagnosis.
Catherine made the cut. “It hasn’t been a miracle drug and it won’t be for all kids. I do know some kids have achieved seizure freedom with it. But it’s basically another tool in the toolbox for doctors who are dealing with hard to treat epilepsy,” Terri said.
Terri is hopeful that the FDA will consider other prescription drugs containing marijuana components for hard to treat diagnosis. “The benefit of having an FDA approved drug, of course, the primary one is that eventually over time insurance companies will pay for it, which will make it more accessible for a larger number of people,” said Terri.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote about the decision, “…This is an important medical advance. But it’s also important to note that this is not an approval of marijuana or all of its components. This is the approval of one specific CBD medication for a specific use…”
Terri believes the move will convince more doctors to prescribe CBD and more parents to feel comfortable treating their children with it. “I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of a brand new era of medication basically,” Terri said.
There is still going to be a one to three month wait before Epidiolex is available at pharmacies and even longer before it is covered by insurance companies. For those who are eligible, and are considering paying for it out of pocket, the estimated cost is about $2,000 per month.