Study Indicates Cannabis Helps Schizophrenia

GW Pharmaceuticals(GWPH) of the UK released a study that demonstrates the efficacy of cannabis for the treatment of schizophrenia. GW Pharmaceuticals holds a US patent protecting the use of CBD for the treatment of psychosis and other disorders. So far, GW’s pipeline of proprietary cannabinoid products includes Epidiolex® and Sativex®, the latter which is approved in 27 countries.

The study, currently in Phase IIa, is exploring a placebo-controlled clinical trial of cannabidiol in 88 schizophrenic patients. All patients had experienced failure using first line anti-psychotic medications. Patients remained on their medication for a minimum of four weeks throughout the study. The scientists stated in the press release that CBD was “consistently superior” to a placebo.

The scientists noted that CBD is a new approach to schizophrenic medicine. Philip McGuire is Principal of Investigation of the study. “The addition of Cannabidiol to the medication of patients who were only partially responsive to standard anti-psychotic treatment produced significant improvements in outcome measures compared with placebo,” McGuire told MarketWatch. “The results are of particular interest because the pharmacology of CBD is distinct from existing anti-psychotic medications, all of which act via effects on dopamine receptors.”

It is noted that this merely reinforced the pre-clinical research of CBD for psychiatric medicine that GW Pharmaceuticals has conducted since 2007. In previous studies, CBD was investigated as a monotherapy as well. “These findings further reinforce the potential role of cannabinoids in the field of neuropsychiatric disease,” stated GW Pharmaceuticals CEO Justin Gover. “We believe that the signals of efficacy demonstrated in this trial, together with a notably reassuring safety profile, provide GW with the prospect of new and distinct cannabinoid neuropsychiatric product pipeline opportunity. Similar to our approach for Epidiolex, we believe that our future research in this area may lie within pediatric orphan neuropsychiatric indications and we intend to explore this as a focus for future trials.”

The study focused on several areas of improvement. CBD showed marked improvement of cognition in participants. The scientists involved in the study say the safety profile of CBD is “particularly reassuring.” The most common side effects were diarrhea (9.3% CBD vs 4.4% placebo), nausea (7% CBD vs 0% placebo), headache (7% CBD vs 8.9% placebo) and somnolence (0% CBD vs 6.7% placebo). One patient reported withdrawal from CBD, however, another reported withdrawal from the placebo.

The company filed for a US patent protecting the use of CBD for psychosis in April 2015. GW’s patent provides them with exclusivity until March 2029. Another patent is in the works. According to Fox News, the company’s UK shares jumped 12.5 percent and US shares jumped 10 percent. The company’s market capitalization is currently at $2.4 billion on September 15. The excitement is centered around the potential of Epidiolex®.

GW Pharmaceuticals plans on submitting a new drug application(NDA) to the US Food and Drug Administration in 2016. The company hopes to launch a successful commercial launch of Epidiolex®, as well as promoting their most recent drugs.