What You Don’t Know About Big Pharma’s Cannabis Patents

December 21, 2014
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Studies supporting the value of marijuana for treating a variety of medical conditions have been available for several decades. The recent legislative efforts in the states have caused pharmaceutical manufacturers to take a renewed interest in this natural healing substance, and a number of patents have been filed to allow these companies to begin production of cannabinoid substances in several different forms for sale to the public. A look at some of these patents shows the breadth and depth of Big Pharma’s interest in the potential of producing marijuana for profit.

GW Pharmaceuticals

In 2013, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in the United Kingdom, GW Pharmaceuticals, filed a patent for tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol. The two components of marijuana are to be used in specific combination with a goal of reducing cell viability, inhibiting cell growth and reducing tumor volume. The patent was first filed in 2009, but the new patent has modified language that indicates the compound is intended for use to treat glioma, a disease that accounts for almost 50 percent of brain cancer diagnoses each year.

GW’s Chief Executive Officer Justin Gover states that the move is part of the company’s orphan disease program that designs therapies for a number of illnesses that have not been a part of traditional drug research projects. The Patent #US20130059018, Phytocannobinoids in the Treatment of Cancer, is used as an oral spray for the treatment of a number of illnesses.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Even the U.S. government has been fast to file patents on marijuana use as a medicinal. In 2003, the Department of Health and Human Services filed a patent, outlining their use in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The Patent #US6630507, Cannabinoids As Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants supports the idea of marijuana as medicine and opens the door for public/private partnerships to create a number of combinations of marijuana compounds for the marketplace.

KannaLife Sciences

The government’s interest in marijuana’s healing properties–despite its official statement that the substance has no medical value–has called attention to its potential value in treating particular conditions. KannaLife Sciences, a New York-based company that specializes in research on plant-derived pharmaceuticals, obtained a license from the National Institute of Health’s Office of Technology Transfer to bring a cannabinoid-based neuroprotectant drug to the market. This compound is hoped to provide protective qualities to the brain for football players, who are vulnerable to chronic traumatic encephalopathy from repeated blows to the head during play.

This brain condition has been a recent subject of news stories, regarding players who suffered Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions many years after their exposure to injury during football games. The company’s CEO Dean Petkanas hopes that the company’s research will lead to the development of medications that will help to protect the brains of NFL players. A component of marijuana, cannabidiol has shown some promise to do just that.

Although the plant itself cannot be patented, the process for manufacturing compounds can be, which leaves the door open to Big Pharma to create a large range of medications based on marijuana that can be used for treatment of a variety of illnesses. However, many hope that the profit motive will not overwhelm the use of this remarkable plant.


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