March 7th, 2017
A legal cannabis industry could surpass $50 billion in size by 2026, according to Cowen & Co., and some analysts predict the cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical industry will become a large slice of this market over time. Emerging research suggests that cannabinoids could be helpful in treating everything from chronic pain to inflammation to neurological conditions. These conditions represent multi-billion dollar markets, but the drugs are currently held back by government restrictions.
In this article, we will take a look at Vitality Biopharma Inc.’s (OTCQB: VBIO) recent breakthrough in developing a non-psychoactive THC molecule and what it means for pharmaceutical companies that are paving the way for federal approval of cannabis therapies.
Solving the THC Problem
The THC molecule has shown tremendous promise in recent clinical studies. For instance, GW Pharmaceuticals’ (NASDAQ: GWPH) Sativex® (nabiximols) is a formulated extract of the cannabis plant that contains both THC and CBD to treat pain and muscle spasticity. The problem with THC-based therapeutics is that they are psychoactive in nature, since the molecule binds with cannabinoid receptors, changing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters. This creates a “high”, and puts an upper limit on the dose of THC that can be administered for therapeutic uses.
Vitality Biopharma recently announced that it has created a library of proprietary glycosides of THC that enable targeted delivery that reduces or eliminates psychoactivity when used in oral drug formulations. The compounds are being developed as pharmaceuticals that enable site-specific targeting of THC in various tissues of the body where it can exert therapeutic effects for the treatment of pain and inflammation.
The removal of psychoactivity from the THC molecule could prove to be a breakthrough in cannabinoid science. After all, psychoactivity remains the primary side effect that is of concern to patients, physicians, as well as regulatory bodies like the DEA and FDA. The mitigation of the intoxicating effects could open the door to far more widespread medical use of THC – particularly in children and other sensitive groups where psychoactivity is of paramount concern.
“This new drug opens up novel opportunities for treatment of pain and inflammation,” said Dr. Brandon Zipp, Director of R&D at Vitality. “We can now exploit the cannabinoid receptor system without systemic THC that compromises cognitive function.” Robert Brooke, CEO of Vitality, adds that, “It is THC without the high and could be a game changer, especially for treatment of indications like Crohn’s disease and for use in children.”
The United States government has long considered cannabis that contains THC to be a Schedule I Controlled Substance with ‘no medical value.’ By their reasoning, cannabis extract is too unproven to use as a treatment option, and therefore restrictions exist on THC extracts and oils today that are even more severe than for opioids, which many in the medical community now recognize as a far deadlier and dangerous class of painkillers. The need for federally-approved cannabis treatments that are safe and effective has created a significant market opportunity for pharmaceutical companies that are well versed in working with U.S. regulatory agencies such as the DEA and FDA.
Vitality Biopharma Inc.’s (OTCQB: VBIO) THC breakthrough represents a turning point for the company and wider pharmaceutical industry. By delivering the benefits of THC without psychoactivity, the new molecule could address many regulatory concerns surrounding the development of cannabinoid-based therapeutics. Investors may want to take a closer look at the company given these developments and near-term catalysts ahead.
About Ryan Allway