It is curious to wonder how the pharmaceutical industry is accepting the dawn of legal cannabis. After all, it’s a controversial issue that most people either want to avoid completely or have extreme and ungrounded beliefs about.
Is the CBD really a threat to the pharmaceutical industry? Whether it is or it isn’t, how do we make a well-rounded, unbiased prediction about how strongly CBD is going to impact big pharma? Well, the market is made up of numbers. So the logical place to consult first would be the numbers.
CBD has great potential to change the way we understand disease and its treatment. It is possibly a single solution to many problems – something that the pharmaceutical industry has never been able to come up with. At the root of it, the entire world is confronting an enormous shift in the drug paradigm. Following a 100-year prohibition, the legalization of cannabis is destined to have economical and social impacts beyond what we may ever have predicted. There is no doubt that big pharmaceutical companies have a role in all of these changes and that they, too will be impacted. But is there any reason to fear the legal cannabis market? It’s a curious topic to explore for any mind that dares to think a little outside the box.
Let’s Talk Money
For a minute, let’s put aside any ethical notions associated with the story of big pharma and cannabis. Let’s just talk about money. The figures are, after all, one of the most influential factors in this discussion. So let’s find out whether medical cannabis, with CBD in particular, has the financial leverage to threaten big pharmaceutical companies.
To get an idea of how much money we’re talking about when we talk about pharmaceutical companies, we can check out their revenue margins. According to GEN’s list of the top-selling pharmaceutical drugs of 2017, 6 of the top 15 selling drugs were for the treatment of cancer. Without being a conspiracy theorist about this, that’s quite a sizeable profit for the pharmaceutical industry just in the treatment of cancer. In total, vaccine revenue was at almost $6 billion while the best selling rheumatoid arthritis drug cashed in $18 billion for AbbVie.
For most of us reading this, $18 billion is a sum of money that is almost impossible to cognitively process. Let’s compare that with the size of the current cannabis industry. According to statistics, the sales value of cannabis is forecasted to reach $1.7 billion in 2019. For California, it’s forecasted that the total value of cannabis sales will reach $5.1 billion by the end of 2019. Finally, some statistics predict that the global cannabis market will reach a total value of $32 billion by 2022.
Okay – we’re obviously not talking about spare change here. Comparatively, the cannabis market is not nearly as big as the market capitalization of big pharma. However, that’s not to say that CBD doesn’t have the power to chip into the market at least a little bit, especially since one of the biggest money makers for big pharma is cancer. Some of the most pressing research in the world is about CBD’s potential to treat cancer and its symptoms.
So it’s quite obvious that CBD has a lot of potential to threaten the revenue of big pharma. Depending on how the cannabis legalization movement fares across the world, the threat could happen in a really big way. But at the moment, big pharma doesn’t need to worry too much about losing money to CBD. For now.
The Opioid Crisis
If we are talking about big pharma and cannabis, then we have to talk about the opioid crisis. In fact, opioids are the only pharmaceutical drugs at a huge threat by CBD and other cannabis products. Cannabinoids don’t have the power to remove the need for vaccines, diabetes medication, or rheumatoid arthritis medication. But they do have the power to remove the need for opiates.
In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services declared a national emergency over the opioid crisis in the USA. The current statistic from the Department of Health and Human Services is that 130 people die each day from an opioid overdose. And the most common reason for a doctor to prescribe opioid medication? Chronic pain. So just to put things in perspective, the top two reasons that people use CBD are chronic pain and arthritic pain.
This is tremendously significant. In fact, this is a place where CBD can actually come to rectify a problem created almost entirely by pharmaceutical companies. As soon as people become aware that there is a healthier, less damaging option, aren’t they more likely to take it?
Knowledge Is Power: The Biggest Threat Is Research
This may perhaps be a sidestep from the main concern (money), but nonetheless, will have impact in a profound way. As the cannabis movement continues to spread around the world like wildfire, there is obviously a greater opportunity for cannabis research. Cannabis is less studied than most illicit drugs, thanks to strict prohibition. Despite the possibility that cannabis may have therapeutic benefits, it has been almost impossible to study.
Restrictions on research and a lack of funding has meant only the bravest scientists have had a taste of cannabis research. In fact, most of the cannabis available for research is owned by NIDA. A simple look at their website will reveal that they are mainly concerned with finding the harmful effects of cannabis rather than the potential benefits. And, as we know, public opinion is the most powerful of all the opinions. The more people know the more educated their choices will be.
As we open the doors for medical cannabis research, a plethora of information is about to become available. This naturally leads to a more educated public about cannabis, what it can be used for and how to use it. Of course, this is a threat to big pharmaceutical companies. Some people are afraid of cannabis because they don’t know anything about it, but know more about prescription opioid medication. As this changes, this could change the entire way people approach using pharmaceutical medication.
An Alternative Outcome
The most frustrating thing about this topic, in particular, is that there is generally one proposed outcome: there is going to be a war between the two industries. But there certainly must be an alternative. Sativex is a perfect example of how the pharmaceutical industry can cooperate with CBD and medical cannabis. When we are talking about health, it’s a big pie that everybody can get a slice of.
Collaboration is perhaps the best of all possible outcomes. Both industries have something to offer to the other, and by working together, the threat can be minimized. It doesn’t have to be war, and the CBD market doesn’t have to be threatening. If big pharma refuses to cooperate, then it’s obvious that CBD is going to threaten profits. But allowing the two to cross over somewhere, even just a little bit, could be in the best interests of everybody.