Toward a legal, national market for cannabis

The story’s out in Pharmaceutical Commerce magazine: “Medical marijuana looks for a place in conventional drug distribution.” It’s based on all kinds of research and interviews with CEOs, legislators and prognosticators in this budding industry.

Frustrations are great as the right hand of the U.S. federal government (DEA) either doesn’t know — or care, or approve — of the actions, research and recommendations of its own left hand (NIH among others). Also, it’s interesting that some of the same Big Pharma industry players that fund crackdowns on marijuana-related crimes (according to current laws) may well be seeking ways to cash-in on the eventuality of legal cannabis commerce. Currently, money crossing state lines can lead to issues with money laundering, since the lowly weed is still an illegal Schedule 1 substance.

A tenuous relationship exists between Big pharma, the supplement market and dispensaries with regard to cannabis’ legality. (Photo: Cannabis Science)

Changes are coming from a few corners of the medical cannabis world — as my investigations, only some of which are published, attest. Eventually at the state and federal levels, the day will come when cannabis is as broadly accepted, profitable and legal as any FDA-approved supplement, OTC drug or prescription remedy.  Ongoing research, advocacy and public support make it seem inevitable if not imminent.

The story linked here includes interviews surrounding pharmaceutical business-related developments. But the medicinal/health benefits-related aspect of this plant don’t end with conventional drug development, owing much to proponents of the whole-plant entourage effect. There’s more to the story than this relatively 101-level view written for mainstream, non-cannabis-versed executives.

‘Dragon’s blood’ used to treat canine cancer patients

This 'blood' is sap tapped from rainforest trees.

The ‘blood’s’ actually tapped sap from rainforest trees.

No, it’s not blood, or — duh — from dragons. But a new prescription drug carrying the nickname “dragon’s blood” is being developed for animal as well as human treatment. Tapped from a substance in rainforest tree, the latest drug of its type under development is, SP-303, an isolated and purified form of the medicinal rainforest plant Croton lechleri, seeks to treat chemotherapy-induced diarrhea (CID) in dogs. Drugs for human use have already been approved.

A variant native Latin American plant’s red resin — source of the nickname among indigenous populations — gained US approval for the treatment of HIV-associated diarrhea in humans in December 2012.

The company, Jaguar Animal Health, a subsidiary of San Francisco-based Napo Pharmaceuticals, received an investigational new animal drug application (INADA) number SP-303, and seeks to file an application for this indication later in the year. Jaguar and parent Napo are exclusively focused on marketing rainforest plant-derived drugs, nutraceuticals, and food supplements.

Read more in my full story, “‘Dragon’s blood’ used to treat chemo-induced diarrhea is slotted for dogs undergoing cancer treatment,” online at Pharmaceutical Commerce.

Yummy science: 3D-printing of human ‘liver strips’

3D printing of live, human liver? Yup. Same for tissue with blood vessels, as well as kidney, muscle and breast cancer.  It all holds promise for the future, and sure beats cranking out plastic guns for the betterment of humankind.liver printer

Basically,  it’s  done by pushing living cells through what amounts to inkjet printer nozzles. Here’s an excerpt from the news story I wrote for Pharmaceutical Commerce.

Organovo (San Diego; www.organovo.com), is among the more ambitious firms, having bioprinted in the lab….Bioprinted liver tissue holds the most immediate promise; Organovo announced in late January that it had delivered its bioprinted liver tissue to an outside laboratory for experimentation. The biopprinted liver strips, roughly 20 cells thick, could provide a reliable (and profitable) supply for use in drug toxicity testing.

Learn more in the story, “3D printing of living tissue advances with first lab shipment.

iPhone app for prescriptions seeks to tap a new-ish $100 billion market

Goin’ mobile: How many people never fill that first prescription? Not to worry; there’s an app on the way for that, too — GetMyRx — as we reported in this story at Pharmaceutical Commerce.

getMyRxDeveloper GetMyRx Inc.’s CEO Luis Angel says “at least a few hundred” scrips have been filled” since the iPhone app’s soft launch in the Miami-Dade, Fla., market in November last year. The app links to fee-paying pharmacies in Angel’s network, as opposed to a single store or chain, and lets people enter data or scan labels as well as insurance cards, coupons and related discount cards. New York and San Fran are top-priority markets for rollout perhaps by summer, Angel told me.

This and other moves by chains are hope to combat patient abandonment issues surrounding initial prescription fills, which a Harvard study indicates may constitute 30% of patients and Angel says has gotta represent a market worth at least $100 billion.

When Big Pharma brands shed their sales reps, you know outsourcing’s here to stay.

Major brands in various industries have shed all but their deepest core competencies. For the largest U.S. and global brands, this has typically led to a major offloading of manufacturing, packaging and distribution- and logistics-related functions. The reason is simple; for many if not most brands, much of those functions are commodities, whereas the real and profit-adding value to the brand is the brand itself. When the product can be manufactured and otherwise acted upon using standard equipment, processes and services that meet the brand’s specifications, even the sales function can be outsourced.

Sales is so closely linked to marketing in the Big Brand wheelhouse, it may surprise you to learn that sales, even in the highly specialized life sciences business, is often outsourced. How much of the Big Pharma sales force is outsourced depends on lots of product variables, but the use CSOs, or contract sales organizations, has been mainstream for many years.

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How do pharma firms and their CSOs manage the ebbs and flows of the market and tenor workforces? In part, CSOs have been busy scooping-up experienced sales reps as brands reduce their headcount. CSOs area also laying the ground work for global growth through enhanced IT competency, broader service offerings and international partnerships and acquisitions.  Online and mobile app use and the resulting collaborative capabilities of sales force software has only hastened the integration of in-house and outside contractors in communicating to customers, in this case healthcare providers. (See article linked below for an explanation of the graphic.)

I recently investigated the phenomenon and wrote what I found in a feature for Pharmaceutical Commerce magazine. Learn more by reading the story, “CSOs broaden their palette of service offerings.”

Zevacor’s new cyclotron from IBA to offer new hope…in 2016

On November 4, Zevacor announced that it selected a firm to supply their new cyclotron. This updates the story I wrote for Pharmaceutical Commerce under the headline, “New higher-capacity cyclotron to stabilize isotope supply.” In that story I cited IBA Group and Best Medical International and Best Cyclotron Systems as possible sources; IBA was chosen.

For this outside the company’s biopharma orbit, Zevacor Molecular based in Fishers, In

d., the company’s 70-MeV (as in million electron volts) commercial cyclotron is reportedly to be the first and only 70-MeV unit dedicated to medical use in the United States. Upon startup, which is planned for the fall of 2016, it’ll primarily produce Strontium 82 (Sr-82), which in turn produces Rubidium (Rb-82) injected into patients for cardiac imaging. Start-up is planned by the fall of 2016.

cyclotron

The big deal, John Zehner, COO of Zevacor told me, is that national labs from Brookhaven and Los Alamos to those in Canada, South Africa, Russia and elsewhere produce much of the needed supplies only “when they have time” leading to an impossible situation by healthcare providers to “keep the supply even so the product is available day in and day out.”

Until the fall of 2016, here’s wishing the patients in your life a stable supply of isotopes.