Ever since reports began to surface about how a growing number of patients in medical marijuana states are now using the herb as an alternative to prescription painkillers, the pharmaceutical industry has been trying to find an angle in order to win back profits.
In fact, it was recently revealed that some of America’s drug makers are currently on a mission to manufacture cannabis-based pain relievers in hopes of cashing in on the call for opioid substitutes.
According to a report from Reuters, pharmaceutical companies such as Axim Biotechnologies Inc, Nemus Bioscience Inc and Intec Pharma Ltd are in the midst of developing cannabis painkillers that could one day be sold in pharmacies across the nation.
“The companies are targeting the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain and are dependent on opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin, or addicted to street opiates including heroin,” the report reads.
Developing cannabis painkillers is not the problem —the hard part is winning over the FDA.
Because marijuana is a Schedule I dangerous drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a classification that ranks the herb as having “no medicinal value,” obtaining FDA approval comes with a multitude of challenges.
Not only are the political hoops involved with cannabis research next to impossible to overcome, but it also takes a huge financial commitment, not to mention years of clinical trials, to bring new drugs to market.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
In fact, sadly, the pharmaceutical approach to medical marijuana has a better chance of going national than the concept that is currently happening on a state-by-state basis all across the nation.
That’s because the cannabis plant doesn’t need to be rescheduled under the CSA in order for Big Pharma to capitalize on legal weed.
As we have seen in similar situations, like with Insys Therapeutics and its pharmaceutical cannabinoid branded Syndros, all the U.S. DEA has to do is classify a cannabis painkiller as a Schedule II or III substance, and it can exist as part of the mainstream drug market.
But Big Phama’s plan to produce cannabis painkillers is not about to render opioid medications obsolete. Despite the problems and health risks commonly associated with the use of opioids, many patients argue that these drugs are essential in the treatment of severe pain.
“Trauma and battlefield injuries could not be managed without the analgesic effects of opioids,” Roger Chriss, a Washington-based technical consultant, who suffers from a connective tissue disorder known as Ehlers Danlos syndrome, wrote in a recent article for Pain News Network. “The same is true for tens of thousands of cancer surgeries, organ transplants and hip replacements. And for the neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapy or the pain of a sickle-cell crisis. The list goes on and on. Opioids are an invaluable medical resource.”
Nevertheless, it appears the pharmaceutical companies are getting serious about their involvement in cannabis medicine. But for now, there are no FDA-approved cannabis painkillers available.