The global pharmaceutical industry was valued at $1.11 trillion in 2018, and is estimated to hit $1.43 trillion by next year, with the U.S. share estimated to be $341 billion.
With that kind of financial muscle, if any of those businesses wanted to, they could steamroll the cannabis industry and take over medical cannabis operations around the globe. While industry insiders talk about that happening, so far the status of cannabis in the United States as a Schedule 1 substance is too much of a barrier to overcome. Pharmaceutical companies are under enough scrutiny without inviting more.
The exception is Canada. Seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders are major multi-national pharmaceutical companies, according to a joint research project by Washington D.C.-based New Frontier Data and London-based cannabis bio-technology firm, Grow Biotech.
Those companies include Ciba-Geigy AG in Switzerland with 21 patents; Pfizer Products in the U.S. with 14; and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson in Sweden with 13.
Sandoz Canada, part of the global leader in generic pharmaceuticals based in Munich, Germany, was the first pharmaceutical in Canada to enter the medical cannabis field. Sandoz and Tilray have co-branded medical cannabis products, including three different doses of capsules and five different doses of ingestible oils with a combination of THC and CBD.
Merck Sharp and Dohme Corporation, the fourth largest pharmaceutical company in the world, has 11 cannabis-related patents, and recently announced a partnership to pursue collaborations with Intec Pharma Ltd., a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that has developed a propriety oral drug delivery system for delivery of CBD and THC in treating pain.