You may not have heard the wonderful news. Our great overlords and global saviors at Pfizer announced their intentions to get into the medical cannabis market via their $6.7 billion acquisition of Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Of course, the giant pharmaceutical company has a lot of “expendable cash” available due to the pandemic.
However, the news of Pfizer wanting to break into the medical cannabis industry isn’t something new. Every advocate understood that once cannabis is legalized globally, these giant pharmaceutical companies would definitely make their claim to some portion of the marketplace. Whether this is a “good” thing or a “bad” thing is irrelevant – the truth of the matter is that pharma entering into the cannabis industry is an inevitability.
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There is a future
Putting my personal prejudices aside for a moment along with some of the more atrocious historical facts of the company; perhaps this could be the dawn of the next wave of cannabinoid medicines. While some might cringe at the idea of pharma handling this sacred plant, cannabinoid-based medicines will evolve into more standardized packaging. It will eventually become dose specific and potentially a robust cannabinoid treatment protocol for a large group of conditions.
For that to happen, pharma has to dig their money-hungry hands into the market and begin to do some R&D. In the case of their recent acquisition, we can already see that they are targeting specific conditions and will be creating a medication instead of trying to sell tinctures, whole plant, etc.
Benzinga reported on the acquisition, “The proposed acquisition of Arena complements our capabilities and expertise in Inflammation and Immunology, a Pfizer innovation engine developing potential therapies for patients with debilitating immuno-inflammatory diseases with a need for more effective treatment options,” stated Mike Gladstone, global president & general manager, Pfizer Inflammation and Immunology. “Utilizing Pfizer’s leading research and global development capabilities, we plan to accelerate the clinical development of etrasimod for patients with immuno-inflammatory diseases.” Etrasimod is Arena’s drug candidate for the treatment of immune-mediated and inflammatory diseases.
This type of cannabinoid medicine would be able to be obtained via health insurance, meaning that it could make cannabinoid-based medicines widely available for people who may need it.
What good can come of this?
While it’s probably easier to pander to the masses and frame Pfizer as the devil incarnate, they too are simply a force of reality that exists and behaves according to its own self-preservation. If they are about making profits, then they will adapt to the market needs and if endocannabinoid-treatment options will become a “thing” – then their self-preservation would create a net-benefit.
By no means am I saying that I support their aggressive strategies and overall influence on virtually every major institutes in society. I’m merely saying that the involvement of Big Pharma will further legitimize cannabis as medicine. In fact, it will probably crack the medical side of cannabis wide open and we’ll begin to develop a large range of drugs from these discoveries.
Over the past few years we have seen some giant leaps occur within medical cannabis and the moment it’s completely legal on a federal level you can bet on the fact that the Pharmaceutical companies will be increase research into cannabis and potential medicines.
With easily accessible and widely available cannabis medicines which will be purchasable through your insurance provider will create a new era of medical cannabis. At that point in time, we will have a complete separation between “cannabis medicine” and recreational cannabis. While whole plant medicine will still be considered medicinal – doctors will probably be motivated by the pharmaceutical industry to push their drugs. Which means now, we’re about to venture into the potential downside of their involvement.
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What could go wrong?
As mentioned above, if Pharma is making drugs, they will want to sell it. The vast majority of anti-cannabis scientists were at one point funded by pharma. They were actively campaigning against cannabis because it interfered with their profit margins. For example, States that legalized medical cannabis saw a reduction in opioid use – which directly affected some pharmaceutical companies.
As for Pfizer itself, I’m not sure where their lobbying and research dollars influenced most, mainly due to the complex nature of their finances. In order to track down what they spend and where will take thousands of hours of research, going through thousands of papers and following the money-trail.
Nonetheless, with Pfizer entering into the market now, they will most assuredly be pushing their medicine over whole-plant medicine. You’ll begin to see studies that claim that their medication performed better than the plant by itself and potentially even a few smear campaigns.
In fact, I wouldn’t put it past the pharmaceutical industry to make up stuff about cannabis being spiked with fentanyl to reduce the trust in buying cannabis from the streets.
Additionally, Pharma will increase the perceived value of cannabis in order to sell it at a higher premium to the insurers. This is primarily how pharma makes their money. They develop a drug, pass it through the FDA (which gets 75% of their funding from Pharma according to some sources), and then sell it to the insurers to buy at a hyper inflated price. If a medicine costs mere dollars to produce, pharma would sell that to the American Taxpayer at hundreds of dollars…per pill! This is standard practice.
Pharma would probably also try to patent as much of the process, cannabinoids, etc in the process. It would be highly important to keep an eye on the intellectual property battles that will surely occur sometime in the near future.
Sticky bottom line
Pharma will invade the medical cannabis industry and try to dominate the market share. In all likeliness, they will succeed on that front. However, if the current cannabis community can maintain their independence, then there’s enough of the pie for everyone. Those who trust Pharma blindly will follow suit with the cannabinoid medicines they provide – while those who are more inclined to natural healing will remain with the homegrown crowd.
However, it’s important to ensure that all of these options are available in the future and whenever you hear about more restrictions on homegrown medical cannabis – pay attention to who is funding it. If Pharma is going to come and play, we’ll have to watch them like a pedophile at a playground.