GW Pharmaceuticals sets US price for cannabinoid-derived epilepsy drug Epidiolex

GW Pharmaceuticals said it plans to charge $32 500 annually in the US for its recently approved epilepsy drug Epidiolex (cannabidiol). CEO Justin Gover said the price is in line with those of other treatments for epilepsy including Lundbeck's Onfi (clobazam). "We wanted to make sure we were pricing Epidiolex in such a way where the means to access this medication would be consistent with branded epilepsy drugs these patients already use," he added. 

The FDA cleared Epidiolex in June for the adjunctive treatment of seizures linked to Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome in patients ages two years and older, making it the first approval of a cannabinoid-derived prescription drug in the US. In 2016, analysts had estimated that the drug would be priced at a range from $30 000 to $60 000 per year.

Julian Gangolli, who leads the company's commercialisation efforts in the US, noted that "the cost of a co-pay [for Epidiolex] is significantly, or could be significantly, less onerous and burdensome than the cost of the product either over the internet or from dispensary." He suggested that the out-of-pocket cost of the drug could be as little as $5 to $10 per month for patients on Medicaid, or up to $200 a month for those with private insurance. The drugmaker indicated that uninsured patients may qualify to receive Epidiolex free of charge. 

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Earlier this week, GW Pharmaceuticals revealed that about 1200 patients, primarily consisting of clinical trial participants, are currently being treated with the therapy. "We expect to make Epidiolex available to US patients this fall, following rescheduling, which is expected to occur within 90 days of FDA approval," remarked Gover. He added "we have been building commercial inventory in recent months and are in a position to ship product into the US supply chain, once rescheduling is complete." 

Jacqueline French, chief scientific officer of the Epilepsy Foundation, commented that although low-cost generic epilepsy drugs are already available, they are ineffective for many patients with rare forms of the disease. French noted that Epidiolex improved patient symptoms in clinical trials and said she is pleased the price was not significantly higher. 

Epidiolex was granted orphan drug status by the FDA for use in patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and for use in those with Dravet syndrome. The therapy is also under review in Europe to treat seizures associated with both syndromes, and GW Pharmaceuticals anticipates a final decision in the first quarter of next year.

For related analysis, see Physician Views Results: Neurologists positive on Epidiolex, but have analysts runaway with their forecasts? See also ViewPoints: FDA gives GW a wide berth with Epidiolex.

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