Having spent five years working in the pharmaceutical industry in a ‘science behind the sales’ role I have a pretty good understanding of how clinical data can help sell drugs. The marketeers would eagerly wait for newly published studies that show our drug to work better than the competitors and this new data would go straight into the sales materials. The sales force would then go out with these new glossy materials that explain with clinical data how wonderful the drug they are selling is and this helps them exceed their sales targets and they get rewarded appropriately. This all makes sense but should the medical marijuana industry travel this data path too? Well, if they want to increase sales and and grow their market the answer is yes.
The medical marijauna industry, that has been made legal in 23 US states with many more pending, will inevitably work differently to big pharma, however some basic rules of marketing will still apply. Marijuana, which they are selling is not patented so they do not need to keep churning out trial after trial showing a competitive advantage over other medical marijuana sellers as currently they are all in the same boat, however, they would benefit from clinical data to show how well their drug works as medication so become real players in the healthcare industry and not just a ‘hippy’ sideline activity.
There have been quite a few studies that show the benefits of marijuana in MS, cancer, anxiety etc. but the breadth and depth of the data is very much in its infancy. Taking cannabis and cancer as an example, the state of the data at the moment shows promise for cancer therapy but so far, only the low hanging fruit has been harvested, what if we took medical cannabis research to new heights?
There have been studies in animals showing that cannabinoids shrink tumours and there are a lot of stories on the internet from people claiming cannabis has either cured their cancer or at least helped them prolong their life. This data will be enough for some newly diagnosed patients with open minds; however, others may be sceptical and not bother with this kind of treatment due to the stigma and lack of data and is it worth the medical cannabis industry shutting out these potential customers?
To put it somewhat bluntly, in the US, the market size of newly diagnosed cancer patients is 1.6 million. Currently the recommended dose of cannabis for treating cancer is 1g per day, 1g may cost approx. $50. So lets do some calculations, $50 multiplied by 365 days multiplied by 1.6 million patients means a market size of a whopping $26 billion. And that is just looking at new cases, not the survivors who are still fighting cancer, sometimes claimed to be with cannabis. David Hibbit, is one patient who claims this to be the case and here is his story.
With non-conclusive data many people will stick with traditional routes of treating cancer such as dreaded chemotherapy which often makes the last stage of people lives an absolute misery, It leads to hair loss, extreme exhaustion and often doesn’t even work. If cannabis works and there is data to prove it, this is very big business and not only that, it has the potential to help lots of small emerging businesses benefit that are just starting up in response to the new drug policy reform.
Currently, these little start up shops have huge untapped potential to compete against big pharma in the cancer industry. And lets face it, although big pharma has big budgets, the competition in terms of the effectiveness of the product that they are selling could be described as pretty weak. Lots of people are dying and living in fear of their cancer returning, people even live in fear of getting cancer as in so many cases it is a death sentence. Yet, despite their drugs often not working the size of the industry is claimed to be $100 billion in the US. The point is the competition is surprisingly quite weak and ripe for disruption.
In my opinion we could be at the start of a new era for scientific research, with the power of the crowd it is possible to fund research independently meaning that small business rather than big businesses can benefit from trials. Pharmaceutical companies run expensive trials to demonstrate the effectiveness of their drugs on their own, yet the medical cannabis industry can run expensive trials in collaboration with lots of small businesses to demonstrate the effectiveness of their drug. On Walacea we are crowdfunding a clinical trial testing the effectiveness of cannabis in treating 40 brain cancer patients. This trial already has £150k behind it from the Medical Cannabis Bike Tour who have raised this money through sponsorship of an epic 420km bike ride. They are working with Walacea to fund the final part of the clinical trial so it can start this year.
The scientists in Madrid only need another £60k to fund this first study and everything is in place, the ethical approval is in place, six hospitals are confirmed, even GEINO, the main neuro-oncology body in Spain are behind the project. So the question is, will this thriving new industry take note and pool their resources together to fund this important study that has the potential to save lives, disrupt big pharma, help their industry and add democracy to science through this new method of funding? Walacea certainly hopes so. We are envisaging this being the first of many studies that we help coordinate the crowdfunding of to help the medical marijuana industry flourish with strong data to back up their medication so the medical cannabis industry becomes a key player in healthcare while simultaneously helping small young businesses.
We have introduced a new perk into the campaign to service this new potential market for Walacea, this is a sales aid for medical marijuana. It will follow the stringent rules of the pharmaceutical industry showing the clinical data, how it stacks up against drugs available on the market and with this first step we hope we can pave the way to make medical marijuana, as we said earlier a key player in the healthcare industry. This industry is also exciting because the profits from the drug will be shared amongst small businesses and people will benefit from a taking a natural drug with thousands of years of safety testing that can literally be grown in their back gardens. And if they don’t want to grow it, they can pop down to their local medical marijuana shop and buy their medication knowing that the profits are likely to remain in their own community.