GW Pharma Denied Blanket Patent on Treating Epilepsy with Cannabinoids
Small victories are still victories
When UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals successfully convinced the FDA and the DEA to allow them to bring their cannabis-derived CBD isolate tincture to the U.S. market last year, surely some bottles got popped at the GW HQ as their anti-seizure medication, Epidiolex, stood unimpeded on a path to piles of cash.
When the federal government somehow got organized enough to pass the 2018 Farm Bill in December of last year, GW Pharma likely breathed a sigh of relief and chugged a bit more bubbly once their buds at the FDA clarified that even though the hemp plant is no longer illegal, many products utilizing hemp-derived CBD still would be.
So, yes, we celebrate small victories when we can, and last week we got one from the U.S. patent Office.
Here’s what they were asking to patent, look for the key words right at the beginning of this abstract:
This invention relates to the use of one or more cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy and more particularly to the use of one or a combination of cannabinoids in the treatment of generalized or partial seizure. In one embodiment it relates to the use of the cannabinoid THCV, as a pure or isolated compound, or as a plant extract in which significant amounts of any THC naturally present has been selectively removed. In another embodiment the phytocannabinoid is CBD.
Ok so generally speaking, it appears that GW Pharma was looking to put a patent on treating epilepsy with CBD and/or THCV. But did you find the real razor in the apple above?
The dangerously ambiguous term “use of one or more cannabinoids…” intentionally leaves too much legal wiggle room for them to potentially weaponize that patent to discourage competition.
Epidiolex is said to come with a $32,000+ price tag for a one year treatment, so stifling competition helps their bottom line.
If Epidiolex is safe and helps even one child – and there are success stories – then GW Pharma is doing great work and their product belongs on the market. . . but then so do countless other brands and options that currently have no hope of FDA and DEA approval.
They are certainly not the only company trying to make an end run on plant-based patents in the cannabis space so it will be interesting to continue to watch how the U.S. Patent Office decides to rule on future cases.
GW Pharma, with their exclusive blessing from the federal government, is in a wholly unique position to really do some good. Their public relations has suffered through the arduous process of gaining those approvals, but future efforts to help preserve the cannabis culture could go a long way toward regaining some respect from the grassroots, for whatever that’s worth to them.
Having this patent denied does not stop them from helping sick kids.
It stops them from stopping others from helping sick kids.
Thank you to the U.S. Patent Office for seeing it that way.
As the legalization movement gains momentum worldwide, cannabis-based research will only deepen our knowledge of the plant and its many benefits. Fueling that momentum in large part will be our rapidly improving technology as we refine breeding, cultivating, processing, and testing methods.
We’re seeing that now as science begins to accurately map the genome of cannabis and as exciting as that is, it also opens the door to the potential for smothering monopolies and corporate influence the likes of which our culture and this industry are just now starting to witness.
So we fight back and celebrate small victories.