Rite Aid Pharmacy will soon begin selling the first ever cannabis medicine in its stores. And while this news isn’t the equivalent of seeing packs of cannabis cigarettes being sold alongside that of tobacco products, it still seems to be a big step forward when it comes to further legitimizing the plant medicine within mainstream markets.
The cannabis-infused medicine is called Epidiolex, and is being manufactured by the British pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals. The DEA now has 90 days to schedule the drug, after which Rite Aid will begin selling it.
“Given that Epidiolex has received approval from the FDA, upon being rescheduled, Rite Aid expects to fill prescriptions for Epidiolex later this year based on availability,” Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower told CNN.
Other major retailers such as Walgreens, CVS and Wal-Mart refused to comment on whether they would offer the cannabis medicine.
While making an announcement about the approval of Epidiolex, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. said that they are now willing to consider other medical cannabis treatments that go through the long approval process.
“This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies. The FDA is committed to this kind of careful scientific research and drug development,” said Gottlieb.
Dr. Elizabeth Thiele conducted a team of researchers on behalf of GW Pharmaceuticals in a preliminary study of the effectiveness and safety of Epidiolex. She noted that Epidiolex could give parents with children who suffer from seizures an alternative to the harmful and often ineffective treatments that are currently administered.
“As a physician who treats LGS and Dravet syndrome, I know that patients and their families usually face significant difficulties getting seizures under control using existing therapies,” Dr. Thiele said in the study.
Dr. Thiele pointed out that the studies of the drug are still in beginning stages, but that the results are promising.
“The results from these studies suggest that this pharmaceutical formulation of cannabidiol may provide hope for a new treatment option that may be effective for some patients,” she said.
Will the DEA actually reclassify the active ingredients in Epidiolex? Only time will tell, but unfortunately the track record of the far-reaching federal agency when it comes to the classification of cannabis medicine isn’t good, despite the will of the people. Still, this FDA approval could serve as the catalyst for some much-needed and long-awaited progress on the matter.