March 19, 2021

Epidiolex and the Challenge for the Medical CBD Market

2min read

The use of CBD is growing rapidly across international markets as millions of people are using CBD every year for a wide range of reasons, especially across high-income countries like the US and UK. However, recent data has shown that some patients and doctors are now switching from various CBD medications to GW Pharmaceutical’s version of the substance: Epidiolex.

Conor O’Brien, George Brown
19th March

A key indicator of this trend can be seen in Denmark, where recently released data highlights the sales of medicinal cannabis products for the 4th quarter of 2020.

Overall, sales grew by 27% in 2020 compared to 2019, totalling €4.6 million. Producers of CBD and suppliers of flower used to produce CBD may note that the introduction of Epidiolex precipitated a decline in the value sales of other CBD products, mainly finished products and magistral preparations made in pharmacies.

danish medical cannabis

Epidiolex was introduced to Denmark during the 3rd quarter of 2020, following the European-wide approval of the medicine by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in 2019. Epidiolex is approved by the EMA for use in rare forms of epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Before the introduction of the Epidiolex, finished CBD products sold by pharmacies represented 55% of the market, with sales in Q2 of about €530,000. In Q4, this had dropped to €143,000 or just under 10% of the total market while sales of Epidiolex grew to €710,000 or 48% of all medicinal cannabis sales.

It is not known exactly how many patients made the switch but it is clear that there was a shift from purchasing of various finished CBD products to Epidiolex. It is quite likely that many new patients also obtained cannabis medications for the first time during Q3 and Q4 of 2020.

There remains a huge and growing market for magistral and over-the-counter CBD. The compound has a wide range of uses, and Epidiolex does not challenge many of these domains e.g. in cosmetics, wellness or in nutritional supplements. CBD has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial compound, with a good safety profile and the list of potential uses is growing rapidly. In the future, the compound may well be approved for use in new conditions and formats which would also bolster physician and users’ trust in the product.

CBD can also be produced relatively cheaply and marketed without extensive processing, meaning the end product can be sold at affordable prices while maintaining profit margins. Epidiolex on the other hand is expensive, roughly US$32,500 a year per patient, meaning sales rely on patients, national welfare or insurance providers to pick up the cost which may deter some uptake.

In addition, many see CBD as an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical products. Prohibition Partners’ survey of thousands of users indicates that CBD is seen by many consumers and patients as a natural, plant-based alternative to pharmaceutical products, which may dissuade some from accepting Epdiolex. Finally, patients are always advised to seek guidance on usage of CBD from their doctors when treating medical conditions.

Prohibition Partners will be diving deeper into these issues and the wider supply chain of Europe in their upcoming 6th edition of the European Cannabis Report.

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Epidiolex and the Challenge for the Medical CBD Market

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