The UK is the leading exporter of legal cannabis for medical usage, responsible for 67.7% of the global production of medical cannabis.
The number of diseases cannabinoid-based products can treat is expected to expand, as is the number of cannabinoid therapies available on the market.
This growth reveals opportunities for companies to develop new therapies to meet the demand for cannabinoid-based products.
Who’s leading the market?
The company at the front of the pack in this growing industry is UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals.
Founded in 1998, GW Pharmaceuticals has now established itself as a world leader in developing and commercialising cannabinoid-based products and had the highest market capitalization ($2,870 million) of any of the top-10 US-registered medical marijuana companies in 2016, way ahead of its closest competitor, Canopy Company with $780.6 million.
GW Pharmaceuticals given the green light
GW Pharmaceuticals is a global leader in the development of plant-derived cannabinoid therapeutics, especially after the recent approval of Epidiolex, the first cannabis-based medicine to be approved in the US, in June 2018.
Epidiolex is used for the treatment of seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome.
The UK and other European nations are expected to have to wait until mid-2019 before the drug is available there, as it is still in late-stage development in the EU and awaiting approval from the European Medicines Agency.
GW Pharmaceuticals has had previous success with the production of Sativex, a cannabinoid-containing mouth spray used to alleviate symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis; however, it is still awaiting approval in the US despite being approved by governments in 29 other countries, including Canada, Australia and the UK.
GW Pharmaceuticals is still hopeful of Sativex gaining US approval, and its recent termination of a licencing agreement over its development and commercialisation rights in the US reflects its belief that Sativex will eventually be granted US approval.
What comes next?
There are currently Phase III clinical trials aimed at expanding the number of diseases Epidiolex and Sativex are able to treat.
Epidiolex could be a potential treatment option for tuberculosis sclerosis, and GW Pharmaceuticals aims at solidifying Sativex’s effects on MS spasticity in order to gain FDA approval.
Other cannabinoid pipeline products, such as CBDV, look to emerge as new therapies for epilepsy, autism spectrum disorders, glioblastoma, schizophrenia and neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
With a growing interest from other companies, it is expected that the pipeline for cannabinoid-based therapies will expand, and increased market competition will follow.
GW Pharmaceuticals’ current strategies focus on maintaining its leading position in the field of cannabinoid science and pharmaceuticals.
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