GW Pharmaceuticals reports that sales of its CBD drug Epidiolex more than doubled in the second quarter of 2019, demonstrating that cannabinoid-based medicines can be highly profitable and potentially blazing a trail for other pharmaceutical companies to follow.


With more and more countries moving to legalise medical cannabis and cannabinoid products, GW Pharmaceuticals, based in the UK, has already begun making a name for itself in the cannabinoid realm. GW develops and markets medical products based on cannabinoid compounds and its current pipeline includes treatments for autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, glioblastoma, and epilepsy. GW founder Geoffrey Guy touted the benefits of cannabinoids to PharmaBoardroom, noting that “Cannabinoids are especially orientated towards neural development. Cannabinoids create, guide, join and maintain neural development in the foetus. In the adult brain they further enhance plasticity and connectivity. They repair, replace and regenerate, particularly in neural tissue but also in cardiac tissue as well. Cannabinoids are cytoprotective as well as being neuroprotective.”


GW developed Sativex, the first plant-derived prescription drug based on both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) compounds.  Sativex is an oral spray used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis symptoms such as spasticity and neuropathic pain; it has been approved in the UK, Switzerland, Norway and Turkey and has received market authorization in some Latin American countries.


The company’s current blockbuster, Epidiolex, which uses cannabinoid compounds to treat epilepsy, has seen early success thanks to its US FDA approval. GW reported in August that US sales of Epidiolex more than doubled from the previous quarter, which skyrocketed its shares more than 11%. Its second-quarter 2019 sales were reported at USD 68.4 million, drastically up from first-quarter sales of USD 33.5 million. 


Epidiolex, launched in the US in 2018, is used to treat seizures from two forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, and is the first and only FDA-approved cannabidiol for these syndromes. GW CEO Justin Gover commented that Epidiolex’s strong sales reflect high patient demand, more prescriptions by health care providers, and increased coverage by health insurance policies. More than 12,000 patients have been prescribed Epidiolex since its inception. Epidiolex is blazing a trail that other pharma companies are sure to follow as competition heats up in the medical cannabis space.