Last year was an especially historic year for the medical marijuana industry as GW Pharma’s Epidiolex (cannabidiol) became the first US Food and Drug Administration-approved therapy for the treatment of Dravet syndrome (DS) and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which are two rare and severe forms of childhood-onset epilepsy

Epidiolex is a cannabidiol liquid extract, purified from medical-grade cannabis plants. 

One of the major concerns about using marijuana products in medicine is the potential for psychological side effects. However, the emergence of synthetic cannabinoids, coupled with a greater understanding of non-psychoactive marijuana products and promising clinical trial results, has caused many regulatory bodies to review policies concerning the production and development of medical marijuana products. 

Company-reported sales of Epidiolex in 2018 reached $4.7m and GlobalData expects this figure to exceed $1.9bn by 2025. The drug is in Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of Rett syndrome, tuberous sclerosis and infantile spasm. 

Assuming that Epidiolex continues to demonstrate efficacy in clinical trials, the potential for label expansion into other indications such as Rett syndrome, autism, infantile spasm, and tuberous sclerosis will significantly increase sales figures in the coming years, especially as GW Pharmaceuticals is targeting markets with significant unmet need and low levels of competition. 

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In general, the diversity of indications for which medical marijuana products are being developed shows that greater research is needed to determine the relevance of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of more than 80 diseases affecting patients from all over the world. 

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