In recent years, the healthcare sector has witnessed a remarkable surge in the number of clinical trials exploring the potential of cannabis-based medicines in treating a myriad of conditions, ranging from cancer and epilepsy to autism spectrum disorder, according to a fresh report.
Remarkable Growth Since 2010
Back in 2010, the global scene featured a mere eight clinical trials that utilized cannabis-based treatments, primarily focusing on conditions like diabetes and anxiety. Fast forward, and the landscape transformed dramatically with 60 new clinical trials kicking off, marking a staggering 650% increase compared to the figures from 2010. According to Prohibition Partners, this year is following suit, with 49 trials already underway and several more slated to commence before the year winds down.
A Steady Increase Year-On-Year
Interestingly, this upward trend isn’t new. Since 2015, the industry has observed a consistent annual growth in the number of these trials. A significant portion of these trials, nearly half since 2010, have been centered on addressing ‘pain’ stemming from various conditions.
Delving deeper, out of 440 clinical trials scrutinized, 202 trials, which equates to 46%, targeted ‘pain’ as the primary condition for treatment. A majority of these trials have been focusing on chronic or neuropathic pain, encompassing ailments like fibromyalgia, cancer-related pain, and discomfort linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as MS and Parkinson’s.
Shifting Focus to Mental Health Disorders
In a notable shift, recent years have seen an uptick in trials investigating the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids in treating mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. These trials predominantly utilize a blend of the two well-known cannabinoids, THC and CBD, with 34.5% of the trials employing this combination.
Lawrence Purkiss, a senior analyst at Prohibition Partners and a co-author of the report, shared his insights, stating, “Looking at the development of clinical trials in cannabis over the last decade, and in particular over the last few years, gives great insight into the potential breakthroughs in the space in the coming years. From analysing the patent landscape in conjunction with the clinical trials record, it’s clear that the possibilities for further cannabinoid-based treatments are incredibly broad, with significant interest already in specific areas.”
A Potential Paradigm Shift in Cannabis Classification
This week, Prohibition Partners unveiled their findings in “The Pharmaceutical Cannabis Report: 3rd Edition,” shortly before a significant announcement from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HHS recommended the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III, a move that could potentially expand the accessibility of cannabis-based medicines to a larger patient demographic.
Reflecting on this development, Stephen Murphy, the Co-founder and CEO of Prohibition Partners, commented, “The HHS recommendation further splits the path of cannabis between adult-use and medical purposes. This helps advance access, but also opens the door for the existing healthcare and pharmaceutical industry to embrace patient demand.” He added, “The just-published The Pharmaceutical Cannabis Report: 3rd Edition highlights the path forward for cannabis and the explosion of clinical research and development that will be further enhanced once this recommendation comes to fruition.”
- Pain, from various conditions, is by far the most prevalent symptom treated in clinical trials involving cannabinoids – with pain being the target condition in 46% of trials since 2010.
- The most commonly featured conditions in the patent landscape include epilepsy, cancer and associated conditions, seizures, and autism spectrum disorder.
- Clinical trials featuring patented compounds (Sativex and Epidiolex) dominate completed phase 3 trials
- It is estimated that global sales within the pharmaceutical cannabis industry will amount to approximately US$1.11 billion in 2023, with projections indicating a growth to US$1.37 billion by 2027.
The last decade has seen a significant surge in clinical trials involving cannabis-based medicines, with a notable focus on treating ‘pain’ associated with various conditions. Recent years have also seen a shift towards exploring the benefits of cannabis in treating mental health disorders. With the potential reclassification of cannabis by the HHS, the industry stands at the cusp of a new era, potentially unlocking broader avenues for cannabis-based treatments in the healthcare sector.
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