Hemp Farmacy, neurologist react to FDA's approval of first cannabis-based drug

Hemp Farmacy, neurologist react to FDA's approval of first cannabis-based drug
Updated: Jun. 27, 2018 at 6:08 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Doctors nationwide may soon be able to prescribe a form of marijuana.

The FDA approved the first cannabis-based drug on Monday. Epidiolex is supposed to treat seizures in kids with rare forms of epilepsy.

Employees at the Hemp Farmacy, a Wilmington store that carries products made with CBD — a compound found in medical marijuana — called the ruling a victory.

"The approval of this drug is a huge step forward for legitimacy for cannabis as a medication in addition to a nutritional supplement," Hemp Farmacy Marketing Director Chelsea Wethell said. "We hear a lot of, 'there's not enough evidence' when using cannabis to treat different ailments and the FDA approving this drug is really a step in the right direction of not hearing that as an excuse."

Wethell said Hemp Farmacy employees are not doctors and can't prescribe any of the products, which they call nutritional supplements.

She said they have had kids as young as 3 years old come in who use the products to help treat seizures.

Neurologist Dr. Alfred DeMaria is excited about the FDA's approval of Epidiolex too.

"I'm happy because anything that's available to help the patients, we need all the weapons we can get on the war on epilepsy," DeMaria said.

He has treated patients with seizures for more than three decades, and called epilepsy a devastating disorder.

"I think it's important to have everything we can to try to keep (seizures) under control," DeMaria said. "Most of the time we can't cure epilepsy, but about two thirds of the time, we can control it with the medicines that are available, and there are already about 20 or so medicines available. Even with that and even some medical procedures, there are still about one-third of people who we can't control with epilepsy."

DeMaria said some of his patients have asked about CBD and cannabis products for years, and it does help some patients, but since the drug isn't regulated, he can't prescribe it.

DeMaria said he will prescribe Epidiolex if it's appropriate for the patient. He wants to study more of the facts about the drug, however.

"It's not a cure. It's not for everybody with seizures," he said. "There are potential side effects. We don't know anything about the potential long-term effects from this. There may be some dosing issues, but they do look encouraging."

Both DeMaria and Wethell say this approval could be a first step for other marijuana-related drugs to be approved in the near future.

The drug is supposed to be available by fall.

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