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Markets: World’s Leading Drug Companies Finding A Way Into Cannabis.


THE emerging cannabis industry is moving up the agenda for the pharmaceutical industry with two significant deals announced in the last few months.

Over the years, concerns the major pharmaceutical firms are anti-cannabis have been widespread and that may well be the case with recreational cannabis – as witnessed by the 2017 Insys case in Arizona.

But when it comes to medicinal cannabis – and the opportunity to secure patents – it’s looking different.

German Pharma Moving Ahead

Earlier this month German pharma giant Stada signed a supply agreement with Canadian firm MediPharm Labs. Stada employs over 10,000 people, and with annual revenues in excess of £2bn it has a product presence in 120 countries.

Canadian firm MediPharm Labs is a global leader in pharma-grade cannabis Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients with a focus on Europe.

Under the terms of the agreement MediPharm will supply GMP-certified medical cannabis products to Stada, as well as manufacturing, logistics, and regulatory support. 

Stada will be responsible for commercialising the products, initially in Germany and then the rest of the continent, as well as marketing and medical education.

In July, a second German company Neuraxpharm, a £450m annual turnover business with 850 employees, and Israeli medical cannabis manufacturer Panaxia Global launched a collaboration to market Panaxia’s medical cannabis products in Germany.

Neuraxpharm specializes in developing treatments for the Central Nervous System such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s, psychosis and depression.

Setback For US Firm

However, the cannabis industry has not proven to be an overly successful venture for one US firm after it suffered two setbacks this year.

Nasdaq-listed Corbus Pharmaceuticals has seen its synthetic cannabis drug Lenabasum fail in two clinical trials this year, wiping 77% of its share value. 

Revenues for a successful completion of the trials had been estimated US$5bn a year.

While many leading cannabis figures, including Prof David Nutt, argue ‘big pharma’ is sitting on the cannabis sidelines as it cannot secure patents on the plant’s many compounds, evidence is mounting to the contrary.

GW Pharmaceuticals is successfully advancing with their patented cannabis drugs Sativex and Epidiolex and it looks like many more are set to follow.

In a recent interview with BusinessCann UK firm Brains Bioceuticals outlined its plans to follow a similar route and develop cannabis medicine patents.

Canadian Pharma Firms Patent Cannabis Medicine

Patent lawyers highlights how, over 100 years since amphetamine was first discovered, drug companies are still securing patent protections for novel formulations.

Research from 2018 discovered that ‘big pharma’ had already arrived in the cannabis space with seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders being multi-national pharmaceutical companies.

These include; Ciba-Geigy AG, of Switzerland with 21 patents, Pfizer Products with 14, and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson in Sweden with 13.

UK analysts Prohibition Partners will soon be launching its Pharmaceutical Cannabis Report examining how moves to get products developed, patented and approved by groups like the US Food and Drugs Administration and the European Medicines Agency is well underway. 

It identifies over over 40 clinical trials being run by the worlds’ leading cannabis companies such as Aurora and Canopy Growth. 

“The prize for the company who gets their pharmaceutical cannabis product to market will be that significant portion of the medicinal cannabis market which will belong to medicines more closely resembling traditional, single molecule pharmaceuticals which have passed through rigorous clinical trials. 

“The success of Epidiolex in establishing nine-figure annual sales is a strong testament to this,” it says.

Peter McCusker is an experienced news and business editor, who believes it’s time to fully embrace the multiple, proven, medical benefits of the cannabis plant.


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