Epidiolex, a drug developed by GW Pharma, has been shown to be effective in treating rare and complex variants of epilepsy using CBD, but the company has had to build trust in a substance that continues to face preconceptions and the stigma surrounding marijuana in many countries.

GW Pharma is a British company that has been researching the uses of marijuana for more than 20 years. Starting in 2012, it began serious work on Epidiolex, a treatment for Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, both typically resistant to anti-seizure medication. In 2018, it received approval from the FDA to begin selling the drug. (Read the full story on WARC: To communicate a virtual reality: building trust in the first US-approved prescription CBD medication)

For some types of epilepsy, traditional pharmaceutical routes have proved ineffective; some parents and patients have turned to CBD oils and other substances in order to treat the condition. But consistency is extremely difficult to ensure, and many products available from marijuana dispensaries – though claiming to carry low levels of THC, the cannabinoid that makes you high – are just mislabelled.

Approval for the drug was a big step, but “approval wasn’t going to equal acceptance”, said Julie Baker, Senior Marketing Director for Epidiolex at Greenwich Biosciences, part of GW Pharma PLC, at a session during Cannes Lions 2019.

“A lot of people, especially in the medical community, were really skeptical about CBD. They associate it with pseudoscience and fluff—and Kim Kardashian isn’t helping. Her fourth baby shower was CBD-themed,” she observed.

To tell doctors about the product, the company decided it would “throw open the doors [to its labs] and let doctors inspect every inch, every angle of the growing and manufacturing process so that they would come to understand what it really takes to create a pharmaceutical formulation of CBD, consistent enough to stand up to the rigors of phase three clinical trials.”

The other core objective was to change the drug’s perceived competitive set away from oils obtainable at a marijuana dispensary, and cast it firmly as a rigorously tested medication.

The innovative way it did this was by building VR experiences that allowed doctors to “step behind the curtain of a pharmaceutical company,” explained Aaron Sidorov, SVP and Creative Director at medically-focused creative agency, The Bloc.

These experiences then go out into the field with sales reps, who have been deploying VR headsets with healthcare professionals since the beginning of this year. In just six months – in part because of the PR triumph of being the very first CBD pharma product – the Epidiolex product has surveyed at 85% brand recognition, Sidorov reported.

Since April, the drug is now being used to treat 10,000 patients. In May, GW Pharma reported that after the first full quarter on the market, Epidiolex drew in revenues of $33.5 million, double what analysts had predicted.

Sourced from WARC