Trends in Cannabis Drug Development
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Frost & Sullivan's recent analysis on medical cannabis finds that the total revenue of this market in the United States is expected to grow from $5.32 billion in 2017 to $10 billion in 2022, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6%. Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only a few medical marijuana-derived products, there will be a strong growth trajectory over the next few years. Much of the current medical cannabis revenue is currently generated in states where the use of marijuana plant products for medical indications has been legalized. Revenue projections suggest that the medical segment of the market may surpass the recreational revenue segment in the next four years, as patients in states where marijuana is legal look for alternatives to opioids to treat their chronic pain.
Frost & Sullivan, in partnership with Tarsus, has recently released its analysis, US Medical Marijuana Market, Forecast to 2022, which provides an assessment of trends, challenges, and growth opportunities. Business models, market dynamics, technology applications, and investment opportunities are also discussed.
"Several pharmaceutical companies are working on the development of cannabidiol (CBD)-based receptor agonist drugs. To do so, they need to be aware of the guidelines the FDA sets for the approval of these drugs to advance the therapeutics to the market," noted Barbara Gilmore, Transformational Health Senior Consultant at Frost & Sullivan. "The FDA advisory committee recently approved a cannabinoid receptor agonist drug called Epidiolex, which when launched will be the first FDA-approved, CBD-derived drug on the US market for the treatment of epilepsy."
Cannabinoid targeted small-molecule drugs, such as Cesamet, Marinol and Sativex, have been approved for the treatment of numerous medical conditions. In some US states where medical marijuana has been legalized, prescription pain drug use has reduced, especially opioids. Medical cannabis-derived products have the potential to treat pain, which could significantly curb the out-of-control opioid epidemic gripping the nation.
Future growth opportunities in this market include:
- Health Canada, the department of the government responsible for national public health, covers the use of medical cannabis for pain and diseases like epilepsy, and will be a reference for future US coverage;
- Billions of dollars are being invested in cannabis research across the globe to study the effects of cannabis on different medical conditions; and
- Big pharma companies have the capital and regulatory expertise to get CBD-based drugs approved.
Restraints in this market include the risk of patient medical registry data where medical use is permitted and the lack of understanding from physicians about cannabis since they might not have completed medical cannabis coursework in medical school. One of the major concerns of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is that the lack of standardized testing of cannabis plants (marijuana) is making it impossible to evaluate, with scientific rigor, the test results that are normally required for drugs that are approved for human use. Nevertheless, healthcare companies are willing to invest.
"Pharma and big tobacco companies have the regulatory and FDA process understanding coupled with large amounts of capital to invest in innovative products, processes, systems, and devices related to the cannabis market to take products developed in this space to the next level. For instance, the tobacco giant Philip Morris has even invested $20 million into Syqe Medical to support the development of technologies that help reduce smoking-associated health risks," explained Gilmore.