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At the end of last month, the Drug Enforcement Agency, aka DEA, ruled that CBD products that have been approved by the FDA would be moved from Schedule I to Schedule V, putting them on the same level as cough syrup with codeine and prescription allergy medicines.
On the surface, this seems like a good thing. After all, this is the first time the DEA has ever moved anything related to cannabis off of schedule I, which is a pretty considerable victory for people who want to see medicinal cannabis legitimized. So, while this is a good thing, there are some serious issues with the DEA’s ruling.
GW Pharmaceuticals Has a Monopoly on CBD
GW Pharmaceuticals’ CBD drug Epidiolex is as of right now the only CBD drug that has been approved by the FDA and it looks like things will be that way for the foreseeable future. Cannabis being on schedule I means that the substance is seen as having no medical benefits, As such, doctors are not allowed to prescribe it to anyone.
Now that Epidiolex has been removed from schedule I it can be legally prescribed to patients. Since Epidiolex is the only CBD medicine that can legally be prescribed, this gives GW Pharmaceuticals a monopoly on CBD, effectively. This means that they can set their own price. Epidiolex is already very expensive; they’ve indicated that they will price one year of treatment at 32 thousand dollars. This was before the DEA’s ruling. Now, GW can set whatever price they want. This life saving treatment will only be available to people who can afford to pay well over 30 grand for treatment. The majority of people who need this treatment will not be able to afford it.
Of course, patients still have the option of purchasing CBD from a dispensary and using that, but a lot of people still balk at the idea of doing something they think would be considered illegal or bad and they will instead end up paying an arm and a leg for this treatment. Another thing to consider is that a large number of people who could potentially use this treatment will not be aware that they can buy CBD oil from a dispensary, so they will think Epidiolex is their only option.
They Could Hold This Monopoly for a Very Long Time
GW Pharmaceuticals is the only name in the game and things could stay this way for a long time. One can speculate that the DEA made this ruling at the behest of the company, and they would probably be right. Knowing how intertwined business and the US government are, one can also speculate that GW could “pressure” the FDA to hold off on approving any other CBD drugs. This could leave them free to price gouge consumers for a very long time.
Overall, this seemingly positive thing could end up being devastating for medical cannabis users. We will have to wait and see.
Featured Image Source: Merry Jane
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