Epidyolex (cannabidiol) reclassified as Schedule 5 in UK, relaxing control over drug

GW Pharmaceuticals’s Epidyolex (cannabidiol) has been changed from a Schedule 2 drug to a Schedule 5 drug, making it exempt from virtually all controlled drug requirements.

Epidyolex (cannabidiol)

GW Pharmaceuticals has announced that the UK Home Office has reclassified Epidyolex (cannabidiol) as a Schedule 5 drug. According to the company, this change will take effect immediately in all four of the constituent nations of the UK and sees the medicine be moved away from Schedule 2 under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

The medicine is approved in the EU for adjunctive therapy of seizures associated with Lennox Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome, in conjunction with clobazam, for patients from two years of age and older.

“The decision to move Epidyolex to a low level of control is an important one for patients, their families, healthcare professionals, pharmacists and the National Health Service (NHS) as a whole – reducing costs and ensuring the medicine can be dispensed more easily,” said Chris Tovey, GW’s Chief Operating Officer. “The extensive pre-clinical and clinical data that GW developed to support the medicine’s approval by regulatory authorities was pivotal to this important schedule change.”

The UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and its Technical Committee recommended the schedule change to Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State for Crime and Policing, on 29 January 2020. This followed the submission of a written dossier and oral presentation from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which drew on the substantial data package developed by GW as part of the medicine’s review and subsequent approval by the regulatory authorities in September 2019.

In its recommendation to the Minister, the ACMD cited the “low risk of abuse potential, low risk of dependency and low risk of diversion” as reasons for the reclassification from a schedule 2 controlled drug to a schedule 5 controlled drug. The ACMD also cautioned that GW’s medicine is “distinct from other commercially available CBD (cannabidiol) containing supplements that have not sought marketing authorisation as a medicine” and that the schedule change therefore applies exclusively to Epidyolex.

GW’s medicine is now exempt from virtually all controlled drug requirements. The company says that patients and their families will now have greater flexibility on the quantity of medicine they can receive and be able to benefit from repeat prescriptions, thereby potentially reducing travel to hospital pharmacies, whilst healthcare professionals and pharmacists will benefit from reduced controls around the storage and reporting requirements that exist for medicines under Schedule 2.