oil and hemp

Big pharma and independent cbd businesses – what does the future hold?

Will Big Pharma and independent CBD businesses clash in the future? Let’s find out what’s being said.

Nearly a year ago, in the online journal The Extract, a journalist by name of Michael Quinn, wrote a carefully researched and thought-provoking article. It turns out that may be worryingly prescient…

In a fairly detailed account, he highlights current trends that indicate the growing involvement of big pharmaceutical companies in the CBD market. He raises the spectre of near-monopolies developing as demand for CBD increases. And as research into medicinal uses of CBD rapidly approaches large scale monetisation.

Along the way, he suggests that a number of senior public figures stand to gain from the current status quo. Essentially marijuana remaining illegal and CBD remaining categorised as a food supplement. While big pharma edge their way quietly towards dominating the market not just for medicinal CBD, but supplemental CBD as well.

As he quite neatly states…

“The story goes that the powers that be in the big pharmaceutical companies are either preventing research into cannabis-based medicines to maximise profits on what they currently have on sale. Or, are they trying to prevent the sale of CBD in the ‘health and wellness’ market so that they can patent and be the sole providers of CBD so that they again, can maximise profits.”

He worked through an example using ibuprofen. As is well known, this is an effective anti- inflammatory drug and pain killer. But it does have limits and must be used carefully to avoid liver damage. He points out, if there was a comparable product which did not have side effects of this sort or magnitude. Enter the clash of Big Pharma and Independent CBD businesses.

This raises a very real question already impacting on the market for and the use of CBD. In this country (UK) CBD products may not be sold as medicines. They also may not be sold with promises or claims of being medicinal.

So, where does that leave us?

In the real world, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence as to the benefits of CBD. For many people the reality is that their preferred CBD products are used in a medicinal way. To aid sleep, for example, or to ease the discomfort of arthritis or reduce period pain*.

But the challenge here is that this evidence is anecdotal. Only proper scientific research can validate these claims and who has the resources to undertake this work? Small independently funded research institutes might make some progress. But for this process to really gain traction, it’s going to be big pharma to the rescue.

In some ways this may be a positive step. Only with large scale research can we get to the point where we have incontrovertible proof as to the properties of CBD. Until then we rely on individual experience and recommendations among friends. Not a disaster, but frustrating for consumers, some of whom may struggle to make sense of the information available.

What happens if Big Pharma do conduct research?

There’s a downside too. If big pharma muscle in on the act we may get the research. But chances are, many small producers of high-quality CBD will be bought up or squeezed out of the market. CBD products will then be sold from high street chemists or their online shops. The economics of the mass market will dictate the range of products available.

Ironically, if low dose CBD products were to be ‘medicalised’, they may end being sold rather like vitamins and minerals are today – like the food supplements that they currently supposed to be.

Alternatively, we could face a situation where CBD products are available only on prescription – and guess who that’s going to benefit? Big Pharma and Independent CBD businesses could suffer. There is no doubt that we need the research. And there’s no doubt we need big pharma – whatever may be the instances of unethical behaviour by some drugs companies, they can and do carry out a lot of vitally important work.

Faced with the urgent search for a vaccine for Covid-19, we rely not just on university researchers but also on big pharma to complement that research and deliver the scaled up production that’s necessary to deliver billons of doses of a life-saving drug.

These conflicting tensions may seem to create insolubly interwoven problems. We need big pharma for the research and the genuinely excellent work they do for the good of humanity. But we don’t need their pretensions to retail monopolies and we don’t need their vested interests threatening independent producers of hemp.

So, where do we go from here?

The solution lies in legislation that categorises drugs and controls retail markets, so keep your ears and eyes open for new of hemp producers being bought out and for drug related discussions in parliament. If you sense injustice, be prepared to lobby your MP – and keep doing so! We’re unlikely to keep big pharma out of this market, but enough public pressure might just bring about some kind of British compromise.

*The author is simply relating anecdotes. The author is a law-abiding citizen and is not claiming medicinal properties for CBD. CBD should not be used alongside or instead of prescription medication without professional medical advice.

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