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GW Pharmaceuticals marijuana-based epilepsy drug to be priced at $32,500/year

GW Pharmaceuticals PLC is planning to put a $32,500-per-year price tag on its U.S.-approved marijuana-based drug Epidiolex, the company revealed during its fiscal third-quarter earnings call.

The medicine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome — two rare and severe types of epilepsy — in patients 2 years and older.

Cannabidiol, the active ingredient in Epidiolex, is a chemical component of the marijuana plant, although it does not cause intoxication or euphoria that comes from another component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol.

GW Pharmaceuticals CEO Justin Gover said Epidiolex' price is in line with other epilepsy drugs in the market, including H. Lundbeck A/S's Onfi, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an Aug. 8 interview.

"Our general pricing approach has been discussed with the payer community who appears supportive of the rationale that Epidiolex should be priced in line with the branded antiseizure therapies prescribed for these patients," GW Pharmaceuticals President of North America Julian Gangolli said during the Aug. 7 earnings call.

Gangolli said out-of-pocket costs for patients in state Medicaid programs could be $5 to $10 monthly, while those in private insurance plans could shell out upwards of $200 per month for the therapy. He added that the U.K.-based drugmaker will launch a support program when the therapy is released to ensure that patients who need the drug will have access.

Epidiolex is the first marijuana-based drug to win the backing of the U.S. FDA. The approval is based on three phase 3 trials.

The therapy is being reviewed by the European Medicines Agency for the same use. The agency's recommendation is expected to come in the first quarter of 2019.