Cannabis in medicine is slowly gaining more traction. Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states and Washington, DC, and, last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabis-derived medicine, Epidiolex.
Amanda Daley, VP of Canada medical, Canopy Growth Corporation, said pharmaceutical-like opportunities in cannabis, as well as consumer industries like wellness, beauty and beverage, are “endless.”
Other countries, such as Canada, where Canopy Growth is headquartered, are ahead of the U.S. on regulation of cannabis and could provide insight for how the U.S. could move forward with medical cannabis.
Canopy has learned about how patients and doctors interact with medical cannabis, Daley said. For instance, cannabis patients often have a major unmet need.
“Pain, sleep and mood are three large areas where people are seeking medical cannabis access,” she explained. “They’ve often been treated for decades, and the existing therapies are not enough. They may not necessarily reduce their other treatments, but these patients are looking for better quality of life and looking to physicians to be open minded about cannabis as an option.”
Cannabis trends among doctors have also emerged. About 20% of Canada’s doctors are prescribing medical cannabis, and an even larger percentage are referring patients to these doctors to prescribe cannabis.
While cannabis is a nascent industry in much of the world, Daley said a lot of the work done at Canopy is similar to her traditional pharma background. The company does medical education to help doctors better understand how it works, it conducts research on the many compounds within the cannabis plant and works with insurers on coverage.
However, there are also major differences from traditional pharma.
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, cannabis doesn’t work the same in every individual. The company also has to work with a lack of traditional research on medical cannabis and a lack of education in medical schools about how cannabis works in the body.
“There is so much noise,” Daley said. “We want to be the company that both patients and prescribers will trust to be credible. A great way to think about cannabis in the future is as an ingredient, or even more so, as a disruptor in the medical landscape.”