GW Pharmaceuticals – a UK based biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing novel therapeutics from its proprietary cannabinoid product platform – recently announced that it has started Phase 2 clinical trials on a potential drug for the treatment of schizophrenia made from the marijuana compound cannabidiol (CBD).
The company, which holds the only license for growing cannabis in the country and is publicly traded on NASDAQ, says the new drug features “purified CBD” as its active ingredient.
To date, only one clinical trial has been conducted on CBD as an antipsychotic. The study, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry in 2012, compared CBD with the traditional antipsychotic amisulpride. A double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial in 42 subjects found that both CBD and amisulpride were associated with “equally significant clinical improvement,” but that cannabidiol “possessed significantly less side effects.”
While marijuana has been known to cause temporary psychosis-like effects – which is quite the claim when examining schizophrenia – it’s the THC, not the CBD, that’s responsible for that. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical in marijuana that causes the high, but studies suggest that CBD actually has an opposite effect.
Now, the challenge for GW Pharmaceuticals is to prove CBD’s effectiveness in a larger group of patients.
The company says the Phase 2 trial will enroll 88 patients and will investigate the drug, temporarily known as GWP42003, as an add-on to currently prescribed antipsychotics. The results, so far, have been promising. Early findings show potential for improving symptoms of schizophrenia and suggest the drug can reduce the side effects of current antipsychotics when used together.
The safety profile of CBD was particularly reassuring as well, with no serious adverse events and an overall frequency of adverse events very similar to placebo. Studies are still ongoing, but there is a lot of potential being shown.
While CBD treatment related to schizophrenia is only in its early stages of research, GW Pharmaceuticals has been exploring marijuana in medicine for a while now.
GW also makes a marijuana-derived pharmaceutical called Sativex, which is being trialed for cancer pain and is already approved in 25 countries (but not the U.S. quite yet) for treating spasticity symptoms in multiple sclerosis. They’re also the creators of Epidiolex, which is currently being trialed for children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.
GW Pharmaceuticals is also developing new cannabis treatments for brain cancer, ulcerative colitis, Type 2 diabetes, and adult epilepsy.
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