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Epidiolex Makes History as First Cannabis-Based Drug with FDA Approval
On Monday June 25th, the FDA announced its approval of Epidiolex. The GW Pharmaceuticals drug is an oral solution that treats two types of childhood-onset epileptic syndromes.
The first is Dravet syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that affects the SCN1A gene and causes chronic and/or prolonged seizures starting in the patient’s first year of life. The second is Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. This type of epilepsy begins early in childhood between the ages of 3 and 5 and can lead to multiple types of seizures, the most common of which are tonic.
GW Pharmaceuticals CEO Justin Gover reported that the Epidiolex would be available to the public in the fall but costs for the drug have yet to be disclosed. One thing is certain, however—this event is a milestone for the future of cannabinoid medicine and the greater pharmaceutical industry.
BCG Vaccine Gives Hope to Patients with Type 1 Diabetes
A recent study published this month in npj Vaccines found that the Bacillus Calmette Guérin (BCG) vaccine may reduce hyperglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes.
Spanning over eight years, the nine diabetic participants in the study received two doses of the vaccine. After year three, the participants experienced a lowered hemoglobin A1c to near-normal levels that lasted for the next five years.
Researchers believe the mechanisms behind this effect involve the BCG vaccine increasing T cells and cellular metabolic consumption, whereby the cells consume more sugar out of the blood.
Because of the vaccine’s influence on T cell production, which in turn boosts the body’s immune system, these findings show that the vaccine may be applicable to other severe autoimmune disorders.
Benzodiazepines Linked to Higher Rates of Opioid Overdose and Death
In the midst of the opioid crisis, we need to be mindful of the various factors that can impact patients’ drug interactions. A recent study published in JAMA found that benzodiazepine users are five times more likely to overdose on opioids.
According to Immaculata Hernandez, PharmD, PhD, “The concurrent administration of benzodiazepines increases the risk of opioid-related overdose because of the combination of their depressant effects on the central nervous system’s controls for respiration. For this reason, the [CDC] recommends against their concurrent use.”
Despite this recommendation, there has been a 40% increase in the concurrent use of opioids and benzodiazepines over the last 12 years, and—worse yet—75% of benzodiazepine-related deaths involve an opioid.
This research highlights a dire need for better coordinated care and extended prescription monitoring programs to prevent abuse, overdose and death.