Cannibidiol is All the Rage – Is Pharma Getting in on the CBD Craze?

Cannibidiol is All the Rage – Is Pharma Getting in on the CBD Craze?

Few substances on earth have been surrounded by more
confusion than marijuana. Harmless plant or illicit drug? Medicinal or
recreational? Legal or illegal (or partially legal)? And what should we
make of all these things associated with marijuana, like hemp and CBD oil?

Marijuana has been on a long, tortured march towards
legalization across the U.S., but because each state has its own rules, and
both state and federal policies can change based on who is in power, the
pharmaceutical industry has largely kept its distance. But, with attitudes and
laws rapidly changing, some pharma and biotech companies are exploring the
possibilities of pot.

A big first came in 2018 when, according to Stat News, Novartis became the first major medical company to get into the medical marijuana business when its subsidiary Sandoz partnered with Canadian marijuana company Tilray. It’s a relationship that will enable Sandoz to enter this growing market in dozens of countries where it is already legal, and Tilray benefits from the credibility of an internationally-recognized brand, along with its supply chain and distribution network.

Though most other companies have yet to make such a bold move, many are nonetheless getting ready for a time when cannabis is finally legal throughout the United States by researching medical applications. “They may not be able to patent natural molecules like CBD, but derivative molecules and unique production formulas are potential areas of proprietary technology,” writes Teresa Rivas of Barron’s.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a part of the marijuana plant
(unlike THC, it does not create an intoxicating effect) that has become
ever-present in states where it’s legal. Offered in everything from brownies
and smoothies to sprays and lotions, CBD is being treated as a sort of natural
cure-all meant to help with pain, stress and much more. While there is not
nearly enough evidence yet to warrant all the hype, there is clearly something
to it, as the FDA recently bestowed its first approval for a drug containing
CBD when it gave the okay to GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, a treatment for

Meanwhile, other drug makers are also looking into uses for CBD. “Scientists are anticipating easier access to the drug for research since a bill signed late last year removed hemp-derived products like CBD from the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances,” explains Roni Caryn Rabin in the New York Times. Rabin reports that biopharma Leaf Vertical is investigating CBD’s ability to enhance cancer therapies, and other researchers are exploring whether it might be able to treat inflammatory diseases, autism and schizophrenia.

Another way pharma companies could capitalize on the cannabis craze would be to develop a synthetic CBD. “The first company to create and patent a CBD compound would command a serious edge in this fast-growing industry,” writes Alex Somjen in Green Entrepreneur. “Companies like CannBioRex Pharmaceuticals are in race to be the first in the industry to design and develop pharmaceuticals that board-certified doctors will feel comfortable prescribing to their patients, potentially generating billions of dollars in sales.”

As marijuana continues to lose its stigma, increasingly
gains legal status and enjoys greater appreciation for its medicinal
properties, pharmaceutical and biotech companies are sure to benefit enormously
by unlocking the curative potential of cannabis and offering it to patients for
medical purposes.


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