The Only FDA-Approved CBD Drug Will Cost Nearly $3K A Month

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One of the most incredible things about cannabis medicine is that it has been available to individuals without access to traditional health care for as long as humans have turned to the cannabis plant for relief. Even as our species has made incredible progress in the ability to provide trauma care and treat diseases, accessibility to the best possible health care has become more difficult. The increasing income gap between the wealthiest individuals and the average human has led to a medical system that works much better for those with a lot of money than it does for those who work for a living.

Many individuals thrown aside by traditional healthcare systems, possibly due to intractable conditions or a lack of insurance, have turned to cannabis to find relief. For some people, cannabis helps with chronic pain and improves quality of life. For others, cannabis medicines may be the only thing between the individual taking the medication and potentially fatal medical consequences. The case of Benton Mackenzie is a perfect example. After the state raided his home over his medical cannabis grow that he was using to treat his angiosarcoma, his cancer came back with a vengeance. By the time the courts realized that it had actually helped keep him healthy, it was too late to successfully restart treatment. He ended up dying 2015, only a few months after his ordeal in court finally ended.

Similarly, there are the heartbreaking cases of dozens of children whose parents wanted to give them cannabis medicine but could not. There is Olivia Marie Newton, who died in New York at three years old, waiting for the state’s medical cannabis program to get started. Countless other children just like her, including Anna Conte and Chloe Lucille Grauer-Lea, have died or had to suffer through unnecessary medical procedures, testing and pain because they did not have access to cannabis medicine.

The FDA recently approved the drug Epidiolex by GW Pharmaceuticals to give people with intractable epilepsy another option. Unfortunately, the drug has just become available in the United States and will clearly be cost-prohibitive for a large number of people.

The company states that the price for a full year of the drug will be $32,500. That is nearly $3,000 a month for a medication that is a poor imitation of organic medicine parents could make themselves at home. The company argues that this price is similar to other “cutting edge” drugs available and that insurance will offset some of those costs.

Certainly, no parent or loved one of someone with epilepsy will balk over money when it comes to treating someone’s seizures. However, that ridiculous price point may well keep people from being able to use this medication to suppress seizures. It should also be pointed out that GW Pharmaceuticals’ price for a drug that comes from a plant doesn’t come close to reflecting the actual cost of production. The mark-up is astronomical and unethical.

Corporate greed knows no bounds, and our government is unfortunately tied up in corporate special interest. The insanely high cost of Epidiolex and the financial pressure it may create for the parents of pediatric seizure patients is just one more reason why total legalization is the only compassionate, rational solution. Beyond that, there is also the fact that this drug may be less effective than full-spectrum cannabis oils with THC at suppressing seizures and that the recent rescheduling of CBD only applies to drugs like Epidiolex

No one should have to choose between paying their bills and giving their child a medication that maybe the only thing stopping that next, potentially fatal, seizure. Parents also shouldn’t discount the potential benefits of cannabis medicine because of a mediocre, if highly standardized, pharmaceutical drug now on the market.