Ever since the FDA approved the first drug derived from cannabis last year pharmaceutical companies big and small are taking another look at the plant for therapeutic potential. According to an article published on the website axios.com by Sam Baker, scientists are looking at cannabis - and psychedelics - as potential avenues towards profitable new medications. This is due, at least in part, to the relaxing of opinions regarding marijuana use, especially for medical purposes, around the country. The interest in psychedelics comes from the latest results from drugs such as ketamine, which has been shown to provide quick relief from depressive symptoms.
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According to another article published on the website globalnews.ca by Laura Hensley, marijuana may be becoming "the new Oxycontin". Two years ago at the Family Medical Forum in 2017, the largest family medicine conference in Canada, medical marijuana companies lined the exhibitor's hall. They tried to convince attendees to take a look at their wares, promising treatments for "this and that", according to one physician who attended, a Dr. Sarah Giles. She continued to say that, "none of [these claims] was evidence-based" and that “Marijuana is the next OxyContin, where everyone’s like, ‘Oh, it’s not addictive, it’s harmless, it’s good,’ and people are kind of using it willy-nilly because you can get it prescribed and not prescribed.”
Part of this hesitation towards medical marijuana comes from the fact that it is still not being taught in medical school. Furthermore, doctors tend to perceive a lack of evidence that it’s an effective treatment for things like pain, sleep disorders and anxiety. There are also concerns around dosing. Big Pharma companies could actually change that perception, as they do with all of their products. They hire sales representatives and medical science liaisons to provide educational materials and answer questions from clinicians regarding their latest pills.
A few of the pharmaceutical companies interested in the medical marijuana market include Novartis subsidiary Sandoz, which has partnered with the Canadian marijuana company Tilray; GW Pharmaceuticals, who released the FDA-approved cannabis-derivative Epidiolex; and AbbVie, which is exploring cannabis medicine and what products can be derived from it.
Will medical marijuana start to appear on the shelves? Photo source: UnSplash.com
Even pharmacies are getting into the act. According to an article on CNBC.com, Walgreens is planning to sell cannabidiol (CBD) creams, patches, and sprays in nearly 1,500 stores in select states. CVS introduced CBD-containing topicals, including creams and salves, to stores in eight states earlier in March. Mind you, CBDs are not quite "medical marijuana" in the strictest sense, but it does highlight an interesting trend that is moving into our drugstores. According to Brian Sterz, portfolio manager of Miracle Mile Advisors, a private financial firm, "There's too much revenue to be made by states and the federal government (to not allow) cannabis-related drugs and products to become available."
While medical marijuana is still in its infancy, and the potential medical uses of marijuana still being elucidated, this dive into the market may seem to be premature. However, sometimes you have to capitalize on the market and not the science. Hopefully, these pharmaceutical companies can make extraordinary drugs from the cannabis plant, and not lead us into another "opioid-style" epidemic.
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