Marinol Was Just One Stop On Big Pharma’s Cannabis Adventure
Will the approval of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals help real cannabis?
If there is one thing that Big Pharma is good at, it’s making sure there are medicines on the market for North Americans. When Statista looked at the numbers, they noted that the United States is the world’s largest pharmaceutical marketplace. In fact, Americans consume 45% of global pharmaceuticals! Between Canada, Mexico, and the US, there’s no larger continental marketplace; their numbers showed that $60 billion goes towards developing new drugs in the US annually. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Big Pharma is creating biopharmaceutical cannabinoids like Marinol.
Let’s take a quick look at the cannabis products that Big Pharma has in their arsenal.
Current Cannabis-Based Drugs on the Market
Big Pharma already has a handful of cannabis drugs on the market. However, just short of a year ago, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabis-based medicine in its history.
When Epidiolex was recommended for approval by an advisory committee in April 2018, the marketplace waited on the edge of its seat. As the new category of anti-epileptic drugs opened up, pharmaceutical companies turned up their research. It was the official green light for cannabinoid-based medicines. Everyone thought it may be a green light for CBD rescheduling. Sadly, we were very disappointed.
Currently, the international marketplace recognizes a variety of cannabinoid medicines such as Epidiolex, Marinol, Sativex, and Cesamet, to name a few.
Of course, most of these drugs are synthetic versions of cannabinoids. However, with Epidiolex leading the charge in the United States, the doors may open for other cannabis-derived medicines to gain approval.
The ‘Approved’ Uses of Cannabis
So far, the research shows that cannabis has a wide range of pharmacological properties. For example, a 2018 study that appeared in Drug, Healthcare, and Patient Safety, showed that cannabis can be used for:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Movement disorders
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- GI disorders
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Nausea and vomiting
So, this leads us to ask: what new drugs are coming down the pipeline from Big Pharma?
New Drugs in the Making
Over the decades, the cost of creating new pharmaceutical drugs has been skyrocketing. In fact, according to the data, the expenditures have increased roughly 13 times over since the 1970s.
Though the costs are rising, so are the rewards. In fact, MarketWatch noted that the US medical cannabis marketplace is likely to exceed 8 billion dollars by 2024. A report by Grand View Research showed even more impressive numbers. Their data expects that the worldwide marketplace for cannabis will exceed 146 billion dollars by the end of 2025. And in this has been the marriage of Big Pharma and Big Cannabis, for better or worse. That remains to be seen.
The biggest winners of those rewards will be the largest pharmaceutical and cannabis companies like:
- Aurora Cannabis
- Canopy Growth
- Aphria, INC.
- GW Pharmaceuticals
Needless to say, they’re pushing hard for better product development.
When Cannabis Science and Technology spoke with InMed Pharmaceuticals, they spoke about their development of targeted CBD products. Their Chief Business Officer, Josh Blacher, said that InMed is focused on drug development in three different disease areas:
- Epidermolysis Bullosa
- Localized Orofacial Pain
Blacher further pointed out the need for companies to continue researching cannabinoids. He said, “we believe there are numerous understudied cannabinoids that may have therapeutic benefits for patients dealing with various severe ailments” and InMed Pharmaceuticals avoids the compounds that induce the psychoactive effect of cannabis.
However, when companies like Tilray and Novartis team up to fill in the gaps to sell medical cannabis worldwide, there’s no telling where the future of cannabis medicine will lead.
The Future of Biopharmaceutical Cannabinoids
Legalization of the cannabis industry on a global scale is inevitable. When access to cannabis for medicinal research meets market demand, the biopharmaceutical industry will likely reach critical mass.
Why? Cannabis offers a treasure trove of potential pharmaceutical combinations.
According to a review published in 2017, there are at least 104 cannabinoids that have already been identified. Furthermore, cannabis possesses a myriad of terpene combinations. With even more terpenes than cannabinoids, the possible number of ways to combine cannabinoids and terpenes is astronomical.
As a result, the future of biopharmaceutical cannabinoid medicines, like Marinol, isn’t easy to estimate. There’s no telling which direction pharmaceutical companies will go in their pursuit. The only thing that everyone can agree on is that the marketplace is going to continue to expand and the cannabis drugs offered by Big Pharma will follow suit. As cannabinoid drugs surge into the marketplace, they will also, eventually, be prescribed for off-label ailments.
Will this boon leak into real cannabis products? That’s more difficult to predict. It would be comparatively simple to create clones that would have identical genetic properties. This would allow for potentially consistent dosing, and then human trials for some of the big guns, like cancer, MS, and Alzheimer’s. But, then testing would still have to pass through FDA muster.