The marijuana news today puts the medical marijuana industry in a whole new light as the first ever U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved cannabis prescription drug was recently priced.
And it’s not cheap.
Epidiolex, a drug to treat epilepsy in children, and which has as an active ingredient, was approved by the FDA earlier this year for prescription use.
A call with investors this week revealed that the drug would cost a patient a whopping $32,500 per year. (“The drug maker behind the first FDA-approved medication derived from marijuana has revealed how much it’ll cost,” Business Insider, August 9, 2018.)
This is in keeping with many other pharmaceutical treatments, but naturally it is far higher than the $10.00 or so you’d pay for a dose of CBD from a marijuana dispensary.
Of course, you’re comparing apples to oranges somewhat, since CBD from a dispensary may not have the correct potency, dosage, combination of chemicals, etc. that makes Epidiolex effective for treating epilepsy in kids.
Still, we may see a good number of people eschew that approved medication and try to make do with cheaper alternatives.
But what does this mean for medical marijuana stocks?
What we might see develop is a whole subsector within the legal pot industry wherein medical cannabis companies begin taking up the traditional pharmaceutical company model of high-intensity research followed by highly expensive prescription medicines.
It’s worth noting that Epidiolex was developed by GW Pharmaceuticals PLC- ADR (NASDAQ:GWPH), an established pharmaceutical company, not a pure-play marijuana company.
But as the medicinal benefits of pot become more accepted by mainstream society, I imagine we’ll see a proliferation of medical marijuana/pharmaceutical hybrids.
And that will open the industry to a whole new client base.
Of course, the traditional pharma industry is a very different beast from the marijuana industry, and even quite different from the medical marijuana subsector.
The pharma sector is based on long-term outcomes, with the drug research, development, testing, and approval process taking years to complete.
The marijuana industry, as it currently stands, operates on a much faster scale. We see gains and losses occur overnight that, in the pharma industry, would take months.
For those looking to invest in a slower-paced—if still volatile—marijuana subsector, keep an eye out for more companies that are experimenting with prescription medications derived from cannabis.
And thanks to Epidiolex, that will much easier to do.
Soon after the drug was approved, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “This approval serves as a reminder that advancing sound development programs that properly evaluate active ingredients contained in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies.” (Source: Ibid.)
Now that the FDA has approved Epidiolex for prescription, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is compelled to change CBD from its current Schedule I designation (no medical benefit whatsoever) to one of the lesser designations.
Or remove it from the list entirely.
That will allow American companies to begin researching the drug for other medical benefits, and it may speed along the development of the medical marijuana subsector overall.
Cronos Group Stock
Sliding away from the medical marijuana news today, let’s take a look at the state of the marijuana stock market.
Cronos Group Inc (NASDAQ:CRON) is closing out this week strong, up about four percent since Monday.
CRON stock has been the beneficiary of deal announced yesterday that the company has entered a supply agreement with one of the largest cannabis companies in the world by revenue, Cura Select Canada, Ltd.
Cura is looking to sell its cannabis oil and hemp oil in U.S. and international markets, making this a strong international play by Cronos Group.
“This supply agreement is the start to a synergistic collaboration for our newly created entity Cronos GrowCo and through the structure with Cura, is the type of creative and forward thinking partnership that is at the core of industry leading infrastructure that Cronos seeks to establish, ” said Cronos CEO Mike Gorenstein. (“Cura Goes International with Cronos Group Inc.,” Cision, August 9, 2018.)
Aurora Cannabis Stock
While CRON stock is registering a strong performance on the week, the same cannot be said of Aurora Cannabis Inc (OTCMKTS:ACBFF, TSE:ACB).
Aurora Cannabis stock is down about six percent since Monday. ACBFF stock has been unable to turn its fortunes around in August, even after closing its blockbuster deal with MedReleaf Corp. (OTC:MEDFF).
While I believe that Aurora Cannabis is well situated for the future of the marijuana industry, the present is turning out to be rather bleak for the company.
Of course, we are in the midst of an industry-wide downturn, but many other marijuana stocks have been able to eek out gains in spite of that pullback. Aurora Cannabis stock, however, has been unable to do so as of yet.
As the legal marijuana industry continues to mature, we’re seeing a variety of new applications of the drug pop up.
In the marijuana news today we’re seeing the possible development of a whole new marijuana subsector that greatly resembles the traditional pharmaceutical industry.
Epidiolex is certain to be the first of many government-approved medicines derived from cannabis, and that could help investors diversify their exposure to the marijuana sector.