FDA Approves New Indication For Drug Containing An Active Ingredient Derived From Cannabis To Treat Seizures In Rare Genetic Disease

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) in patients one year of age and older. Epidiolex was previously approved for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome (DS). This is the only FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from cannabis. It is also the second FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of seizures associated with TSC.

CBD is a chemical component of the Cannabis sativa plant. However, CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC (and not CBD) that is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis.

“The FDA continues to believe the drug approval process represents the best way to make new medicines, including any drugs derived from cannabis, available to patients in need of appropriate medical therapy such as the treatment of seizures associated with these rare conditions. This paradigm ensures new therapies are safe, effective, and manufactured to a high quality that provides uniform and reliable dosing for patients,” said Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., deputy center director for regulatory programs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The agency is committed to supporting rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of cannabis-derived products and working with product developers who are interested in bringing patients safe and effective, high quality products.”

TSC is a rare genetic disease that causes non-cancerous (benign) tumors to grow in the brain and other parts of the body like the eyes, heart, kidneys, lungs, and skin. TSC usually affects the central nervous system and can result in a combination of symptoms including seizures, developmental delay, and behavioral problems, although the signs and symptoms of the condition, as well as the severity of symptoms, vary widely. TSC affects about 1 in 6,000 people.

Epidiolex’s effectiveness for the treatment of seizures associated with TSC was established in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial where 148 patients out of a total of 224 in the study received Epidiolex. The study measured the change from baseline in seizure frequency. In the study, patients treated with Epidiolex had a significantly greater reduction in the frequency of seizures during the treatment period than patients who received placebo (inactive treatment). This effect was seen within eight weeks and remained consistent throughout the 16-week treatment period.

The most common side effects that occurred in Epidiolex-treated patients with TSC in the clinical trial were: diarrhea, elevated liver enzymes, decreased appetite, sleepiness, fever, and vomiting. Additional side effects for patients with LGS, DS, or TSC include: liver injury, decreased weight, anemia, and increased creatinine.

Epidiolex must be dispensed with a patient Medication Guide that describes important information about the drug’s uses and risks. As is true for all drugs that currently treat epilepsy, including Epidiolex, the most serious risks may include an increase in suicidal thoughts and behavior, or thoughts of self-harm. Patients, their caregivers, and their families should be advised to monitor for any unusual changes in mood or behavior, such as worsening depression, suicidal thoughts or behavior. Patients, caregivers, and families should report behaviors of concern immediately to healthcare providers. Epidiolex also caused liver injury in some patients. Most cases were generally mild, but a risk of rare, but more severe liver injury exists. More severe liver injury can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, anorexia, jaundice, and/or dark urine.

The FDA granted Priority Review designation for this application. The approval of Epidiolex was granted to Greenwich Biosciences Inc., of Carlsbad, California.

FDA Approves First Cannabis-Based Epilepsy Drug

MARYLAND: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol) [CBD] oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, in patients two years of age and older. This is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana. It is also the first FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome.

CBD is a chemical component of the Cannabis sativa plant, more commonly known as marijuana. However, CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC (and not CBD) that is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.

“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. And, the FDA is committed to this kind of careful scientific research and drug development,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “Controlled clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of a drug, along with careful review through the FDA’s drug approval process, is the most appropriate way to bring marijuana-derived treatments to patients. Because of the adequate and well-controlled clinical studies that supported this approval, prescribers can have confidence in the drug’s uniform strength and consistent delivery that support appropriate dosing needed for treating patients with these complex and serious epilepsy syndromes. We’ll continue to support rigorous scientific research on the potential medical uses of marijuana-derived products and work with product developers who are interested in bringing patients safe and effective, high quality products. But, at the same time, we are prepared to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with serious, unproven medical claims. Marketing unapproved products, with uncertain dosages and formulations can keep patients from accessing appropriate, recognized therapies to treat serious and even fatal diseases.”

Dravet syndrome is a rare genetic condition that appears during the first year of life with frequent fever-related seizures (febrile seizures). Later, other types of seizures typically arise, including myoclonic seizures (involuntary muscle spasms). Additionally, status epilepticus, a potentially life-threatening state of continuous seizure activity requiring emergency medical care, may occur. Children with Dravet syndrome typically experience poor development of language and motor skills, hyperactivity and difficulty relating to others.

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome begins in childhood. It is characterized by multiple types of seizures. People with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome begin having frequent seizures in early childhood, usually between ages 3 and 5. More than three-quarters of affected individuals have tonic seizures, which cause the muscles to contract uncontrollably. Almost all children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome develop learning problems and intellectual disability. Many also have delayed development of motor skills such as sitting and crawling. Most people with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome require help with usual activities of daily living.

“The difficult-to-control seizures that patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome experience have a profound impact on these patients’ quality of life,” said Billy Dunn, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In addition to another important treatment option for Lennox-Gastaut patients, this first-ever approval of a drug specifically for Dravet patients will provide a significant and needed improvement in the therapeutic approach to caring for people with this condition.”

WellSpan Prepares To Launch Region’s First Medical Marijuana Study

PENNSYLVANIA:  At WellSpan Health, pediatric neurologist Dr. Todd Barron said about 50 percent of his patients have epilepsy.

Medical marijuana isn’t a foreign topic, as anecdotal evidence suggests the CBD compound in the plant can help with seizures, he said.

With no definite answer — yet — Barron said WellSpan will be conducting two studies that will test CBD on epilepsy: one for children with Dravet syndrome and one for those with Lennox–Gastaut syndrome.

“We felt that this was the best way to help our patients, by looking at the drug in a safe fashion,” he said.

 

Georgia Boy Among First To Receive Experimental Medical Marijuana Drug

GEORGIA:  A 7-year-old boy is one of the first people in the country to receive a potent form of medical marijuana as part of an “extended use” clinical trial to reduce seizures.

Preston Weaver, who lives in Athens, Georgia, has Lennox-Gastaut syndrome which is a severe form of epilepsy. He experiences up to 100 seizures a day, although many are confined to his brain and aren’t noticeable to an observer. There is no known cure for the condition.

Many of the drugs available to treat the syndrome don’t work long term, especially for children. Even with more than a dozen medications Weaver has had no relief.

The active ingredient in Epidiolex, the experimental drug that Weaver and one other child are receiving, is called cannabidiol. It’s also the main active ingredient in marijuana though it doesn’t produce a high.