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Impact of Medical Marijuana on Big Pharma

Jun 30 2017, by Jessica McElfresh in Federal Marijuana Issues, Legal Blog, Marijuana Business, Medical Marijuana

It’s no secret that the medical marijuana business is booming. According to research firm ArcView Group, the national market for medical cannabis was almost $7 billion in 2016 and is likely to reach $20 billion annually in just a few years. Medical marijuana is so successful that it is eroding the market share of the traditional pharmaceutical industry, colloquially known as “big pharma.”

From 2010 to 2013, Medicare patients saved over $165 million annually by substituting marijuana for traditional medication in treating illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, sleep disorders, epilepsy, anxiety, nerve pain, glaucoma, Tourette’s syndrome, and nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.

New Frontier Data, a private firm that provides data to the cannabis industry, reports that big pharma will probably lose $4 billion annually because patients are turning away from traditional medicine in favor of cannabis-based treatment for their ailments. Four billion dollars is a lot of money, but it pales in comparison to big pharma’s $425 billion dollars an annual market share.

Big Pharma Attacks Medical Marijuana Over Eroding Market Share

In the corporate world, a 1 percent decrease in market share is a serious problem. One way to address this problem is to make sure the government keeps your competition out of the market. Some pharmaceutical companies are doing just that by lobbying forcefully against cannabis legalization measures across the nation.

Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories, who manufacture the painkillers OxyContin and Vicodin, are large donors to the Anti-Drug Coalition of America, an organization that is actively fighting cannabis legalization. The industry’s trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, has spent millions on lobbying against legalization measures.

But the most notorious example is Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company that manufactures the painkiller fentanyl, and is currently developing a synthetic THC drug. Insys contributed $500,000 to the opposition of Arizona’s 2016 cannabis legalization measure. The company’s law firm also sent a letter to the FDA in opposition to the rescheduling of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule 3.

Big Pharma’s Opposition to Medical Cannabis is Indefensible

Faced with the overwhelming evidence in favor of the use of cannabis in treating many illnesses, big pharma has resorted to emotional appeals. The campaign against legalization in Arizona, for example, warned that children in Colorado were falling prey to cannabis medicine disguised as candy.

The small kernel of truth in this argument – the number of Colorado children hospitalized because of accidental cannabis ingestion has almost doubled since 2014 – is overshadowed by the more disturbing fact: the US Department of Health and Human Services reports that between 2004 and 2011, the number of kids ending up in the ER after ingesting traditional painkillers increased by 225 percent. And such accidental ingestions occur twice as much as accidental cannabis ingestions.

While ingesting too many narcotic painkillers can be deadly, there are no recorded deaths caused by cannabis throughout human history. And the growing use of medical marijuana seems to be reducing opiate-related deaths. According to a 2014 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, opiate overdoses have fallen 25 percent in states that have legalized medical cannabis.

Fighting the Lies about Medical Cannabis

The medical marijuana industry’s soaring revenues have given it the muscle to compete with big pharma in public relations and lobbying. Colorado state Senator Pat Steadman has stated that the cannabis “lobby has grown quite a bit, and they have become increasingly sophisticated…investing more money in government relations, elections, marketing, and public relations.”

Now, mainstream media outlets are widely reporting on the benefits of medical cannabis. For example, the Washington Post reported that if medical marijuana were legalized nationally, US taxpayers would save over $1 billion a year. And when it comes to big pharma, not everyone is targeting medical marijuana. Bioteh companies such as GW Pharmaceuticals have been responsible for more than half of the investments in the medical marijuana industry. A medical marijuana attorney may be able to help.

McElfresh Law Can Help

McElfresh Law is a San Diego area law firm focusing on the legal needs of the medical and recreational cannabis businesses and consumers. We make every effort to stay abreast of the cannabis industry’s fast-changing legal and regulatory landscape in order to give our clients the best chance of success.

If you have a question about setting up a California cannabis business, call us today at (858) 756-7107 to schedule a consultation.

This website is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. Free consultation for criminal defense cases only. Cannabis business consultation requires a fee.

California marijuana laws change frequently. For updated information, see the following pages: Medicinal Uses of Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana Business