Introducing Epidiolex: Big Pharma’s first crack at cannabis medicine

Introducing Epidiolex: Big Pharma’s first crack at cannabis medicine

And there will be many more to come

VicesSeptember 17, 2019 By Will Brendza

It was only a matter of time. From the day that cannabis was medicinally legalized in California in 1996, a countdown was initiated; a countdown to Pharmageddon — the day that Big Pharma would bust into the business of weed.

Well, that day came and that day went and now, the FDA has approved the first ever over-the-counter cannabis medication: Epidiolex, a cannabidiol-based epilepsy pill.

And it’s getting investors all kinds of hot and bothered.

For good reason, too: in its second quarter alone Epidiolex’s net sales equated to $68.4 million, 204% higher than its first quarter sales revenue. This stuff is hot.

In that wake of that success, GW Pharma already has a second cannabis medication in development, called Sativex and plans to make numerous others in the future. Despite their meager size, GW is blazing the trail for Big Pharma in cannabis medicine — and you can bet that there will be more companies who now start to follow in their footsteps.

GW Pharma is still a relatively small company, though, despite the success of Epidiolex. They call themselves a “bio-tech company” (although they could just as well be called an FDA-approved cannabis company) and like any small pharma startup, its revenue isn’t jaw-dropping… yet.

That’s already changing, though: between their first and second quarter in operation, GW’s net revenue surged by 2,080%. On top of that, the investment bank Evercore ISI predicted that the peak sales of Epidiolex could top out around $1.3 billion. And with multiple other cannabis-based medicines in development, this pharmaceutical company is essentially a powder keg just waiting to be set off. InvestorPlace columnist Josh Enomoto called the company the “Amazon of healthcare.”

As Enomoto points out in his April 30th column, “Their core ingredient, cannabis, is dirt cheap. Therefore, the underlying company has the ability to disrupt the drug-making industry like no one’s business.”

Some fear that, though. Some worry that, as bigger and bigger pharmaceutical companies get into the business of making medicinal cannabis products, the medicinal cannabis industry will be taken away from The People.

This is one of the biggest arguments against the outright federal legalization of marijuana: once Big Pharma and the Federal Government get their greedy hands on the business of cannabis, it will never be the same again; it will no longer be a grass roots, localized artesian affair. It will become just like any other big industry: dominated by a few big corporate players, no one can compete with, and who can decide to set the market price wherever they want.

However, to others, that seems like a reasonable price to pay. Having an FDA approved cannabis medication will help untold numbers of Americans (children and adults) to cope with epilepsy. People in states that don’t have access to legal cannabis (medicinal or otherwise) can still get access to this drug if its prescribed. Regardless of what Epidiolex means for the future of the medicinal cannabis industry, or for artesian growers/distributers, it’s going to help a lot of people in a very big way.

No matter whether you're for it or against it, though, the fact remains: Pharmageddon is here; it’s happening and there’s no stopping it. Big Pharma’s foot is already in the door of the cannabis industry and it’s only a matter of time until other Big Pharma companies start forcing their way in behind GW.

If you’re an investor looking for that “next big thing” this might be it.