Why Isn’t Big Pharma More Active In Cannabis?

Why Isn’t Big Pharma More Active In Cannabis?

Why Isn’t Big Pharma More Active In Cannabis?

The cannabis space has seen a few large-scale deals in the medical space, but this begs the question: why isn’t big pharma much more involved in the industry?

Megan Henderson, executive producer of The GrowthOp, moderated a panel of experts Wednesday at the Benzinga Capital Cannabis Conference in Toronto to explore big pharma’s role in cannabis.

Wallin: Big Pharma ‘Largest Obstacle’ To Industry

The “biggest roadblock” preventing full legalization of cannabis across the U.S. happens to be big pharma companies, said Vertical Companies CEO Smoke Wallin. The largest pharmaceutical companies are working behind the scenes across every state house to prevent progress, he said.

For example, New Jersey lawmakers postponed a vote on legalization in late March, Wallin said — and it shouldn’t be a surprise, since 14 of the 25 biggest pharmaceutical companies call New Jersey home.

The medical community is aware of the benefits of cannabis and patients aren’t shying away from asking their doctors about the drug, the CEO said.

Elsley: Start With ‘Conservative’ Medical Segments

Big pharma is closely watching the cannabis space, and when a therapeutic strategy evolves, the sector will move with force, said David Elsley, president and CEO of Cardiol Therapeutics Inc (OTC: CRTPF) said. The company explores cannabidiol products and targeted therapies for heart failure and cancer — two of the more “conservative” health care segments, he said.

Consumers are “turning away” from traditional medical treatments, but it is also clear companies need a “pure molecule to test” before treating patients with cannabis, Elsley said.

Allen: All About The Data

Big pharma is actively watching the cannabis space, including Avicanna, said Dr. Christine Allen, the company’s chief scientific officer. Avicanna is engaged in cannabinoid-based health, wellness and medical product exploration.

Before big pharma can flex its muscles, more data is needed on the space, Allen said. For example, companies need to understand relationships between doses, dosing forms and dosing schedules — and this isn’t necessarily being done now.

The use of cannabis for health and wellness is only partly based on producing new and exciting formulations, Allen said, adding that the other key to success is understanding the data and how it can be best used.

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David Elsley, left, president and CEO of Cardiol Therapeutics; Vertical Companies CEO Smoke Wallin; and Dr. Christine Allen, chief scientific officer at Avicanna, speak during a panel discussion Wednesday at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Toronto. Photo by Juil Yoon.

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