Pfizer’s pharmaceutical giant is the first big pharma business to enter the medical cannabis industry. With the recent acquisition of the California-based biotechnology company Arena, Pfizer has access to the biotech’s research and development involving cannabinoid therapeutics. The 6.7 billion-dollar sale has the potential to be a game-changer for the medical cannabis market.
The Current Status of Medical Marijuana in the U.S.
Medicinal use of cannabis is currently legal in 36 states, four territories, and the District of Columbia. This number is growing as more and more states legalize medical marijuana use through ballot initiatives or state legislative action each year.
However, at the federal level, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug as defined by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This means that it has “no accepted medical use” and presents a high risk of abuse.
This could change soon as the U.S. is moving towards federal legalization. Current support of medical cannabis at the national level means that pharma companies like Pfizer are betting on this market.
Medical Marijuana and Big Pharma Mergers
These changes are also evident outside of the U.S. The most notable is the sale of G.W. Pharmaceuticals to Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc, the first company in America to get approval for a cannabinoid-based medication, Epidiolex, a drug to treat severe forms of epilepsy.
Pfizer’s recent move is perhaps a sign that big pharma is ready to move past the waiting period of federal legalization to make a significant move into the medical marijuana industry. So the next time your customers have a question like, “can i smoke weed on antibiotics.” Your budtenders might find the answer on Pfizer’s website.
The pharmaceutical companies are getting on the ground floor first. Forbes experts see 2022 as the year of consolidation and competition for medical and recreational cannabis.
Big Pharma and the Medical Marijuana Market
Although the recreational industry is growing by leaps and bounds, many U.S. states still don’t allow medical, let alone adult use. Medicinal cannabis sales have grown substantially during the pandemic. One study found a 91% increase in medical marijuana sales in the first year of the COVID-19 outbreak.
It’s clear the medicinal sector will still get a large slice of the market that experts see growing to $33.6 billion by 2025.
As more people are using cannabis medically and recreationally, healthcare professionals can expect more patient questions about drug-to-drug interactions, such as antibiotics like Amoxicillin and weed.
Filling the Gaps in Cannabis Research
It’s apparent that the marijuana industry will continue to grow, but with increased research and development. Pfizer’s investment into Arena can lead to more options for patients.
Arena will likely develop cannabinoids to control obesity, metabolic syndrome X, and diabetes through the FDA process. However, that’s a long process, so don’t expect the drugs to hit the market soon. Nonetheless, it’s a great start for bringing more credibility to the medical cannabis market. In the meantime, if your customers have questions about weed and antibiotics interactions, it’s best to suggest they speak to their prescribing doctor.
Pharmaceutical companies are investing in cannabis research to fill the gaps. Pfizer is now part of this movement by acquiring Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which specializes in cannabinoid-based medications that could help treat obesity and diabetes. More pharmaceutical companies will likely follow suit as they recognize the potential for medical marijuana treatments to fill needs where other drugs have failed or not yet been developed.