For all the talk and, yes, hype about the marijuana industry’s so-called “green rush,” the big pharmaceutical companies appeared to be giving cannabis-based treatments the cold shoulder, due to federal laws outlawing marijuana.
But given the legal, political and cultural inroads that have been made in the past eight months by the cannabis industry, parts of Big Pharma appear to be changing their tune – and are becoming more open about their efforts to develop and commercialize cannabis-based drugs.
Here are some examples:
Insys Therapeutics (NASDAQ: INSY)
This Arizona-based specialty pharmaceutical company recently announced the FDA had granted an Orphan Drug Designation to the company’s cannabidiol (CBD) treatment of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) – one of the most common and aggressive malignant brain tumors found in humans.
The FDA assigns Orphan Drug status to medicines that treat rare diseases and conditions affecting a limited number of patients in the U.S. That status also provides the drug’s developer a seven-year window of marketing exclusivity in the U.S., along with some financial incentives in support of the drug’s development.
Insys has also started an exclusive licensing agreement with the research wing of the San Francisco-based California Pacific Medical Center, regarding patenting rights related to the usage of cannabinoids in the treatment of GBM.
GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH)
This British company, also listed on the London Stock Exchange, has been licensed by the UK’s Home Office to “work with a range of controlled drugs for medical research purposes.”
GW’s flagship product, Sativex, a cannabinoid medicine, has been approved or recommended for approval in 24 countries as a treatment for severe spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.
This past June, the company announced an agreement with New York state to begin clinical trials for the use of cannabidiols to help children suffering from epileptic seizures.
And last November the FDA granted Orphan Drug status to GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, the company’s CBD-based treatment for children with Dravet Syndrome, a rare and severe form of drug-resistent epilepsy.
Cannabis Science (OTC: CBIS)
Last year, Cannabis Science scored a major recruiting coup – when it brought on board Dr. Dorothy Bray as its CEO and director.
Before her new gig, Dr. Bray was head of scientific development at the UK’s Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit. She also worked several top-level research positions at GlaxoSmithKline, including serving as the company’s glodal director of HIV research.
The hire is also a good fit for Cannabis Science, a leader in cannabinoid-based therapeutic research and development, “to address neglected pandemic oncological manifestations of pandemic infectious diseases in human health.”