From 1 May 2021, Australians living with Dravet syndrome, will have access to Epidiolex (cannabidiol), a new treatment used in combination with at least two other anti-epileptic medicines on the PBS.
Epidiolex is only the second medicinal cannabis drug registered for supply in Australia, and the first one to be subsidised by the Australian Government on the PBS.
Dravet syndrome is a rare, genetic epileptic encephalopathy that gives rise to seizures which don’t respond well to the standard medications. The disorder begins in the first year of life in otherwise healthy infants.
About 8 out of 10 people with the syndrome have a gene mutation that causes problems in the way ion channels in the brain work. It is a “new” mutation and is not usually inherited.
Australia’s medicines regulator – the Therapeutic Goods Administration – says that, while there have been very few well-designed clinical trials using medicinal cannabis, the evidence to support its use in the treatment of certain childhood epilepsies is the strongest.
It is estimated that just 116 patients each year will benefit from the listing of Epidiolex, who might otherwise pay more than $24,000 per year for the treatment.
Instead, they will now pay $41.30 per script or $6.60 if they have a concession card.