Despite legal restrictions limiting research into the medical applications of cannabis across the world, with the substance only legal or decriminalised in certain areas, a market for synthetic cannabinoid products that reproduce the effects of cannabis is starting to burgeon, says business intelligence provider GBI Research
According to the company’s latest whitepaper, a small number of pharmaceutical companies have brought products to market with the main active ingredient being one or more synthetic cannabinoids.
These products are marketed for a variety of indications, including anorexia nervosa related to HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis spasticity, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.
Thomas Jarratt, Associate Analyst for GBI Research, explains: “More recently, products have been approved that contain cannabinoids extracted directly from the plant, as opposed to synthetic recreations, and there is extensive interest in cannabinoids for a variety of neurological disorders. Indeed, there are 90 pipeline cannabinoid products, including two in Phase III development.”
Major advantages of developing cannabinoid products include cannabis’s various therapeutics uses and its very low toxicity. Indeed, a Drug Enforcement Agency administrative law judge declared in 1988 that cannabis in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. In many ways, cannabinoid products are more beneficial than commonly used analgesics such as codeine for the relief of mild to moderate pain, owing to its preferable safety profile.
Jarratt continues: “Owing to a mounting evidence base for the therapeutic efficacy of cannabinoids, a large pipeline is beginning to emerge, with 90 cannabinoid-based products currently in development. The vast majority of pipeline products are in early stages of development, with 74 – equivalent to 82% of the pipeline – at the preclinical or discovery stages. There are two products at Phase III of development: Epidiolex (cannabidiol), in development for treating various types of epileptic seizures, and Sativex (nabiximols), which is being trialed for anxiety disorders.
“As most of these pipeline products are in the early stages of development, GBI Research believes they are unlikely to make an impact on the market in the near future. However, this demonstrates the increasing attention being turned towards cannabinoids as a promising active pharmaceutical ingredient.”