Why Is Big Pharma Spending So Much Money Fighting Medical Cannabis?

Do you know why "Big Pharma" funds anti-legalization efforts against cannabis across the country? It's profit. There may be high-minded window dressing about the “dangers” of cannabis, but make no mistake, what these companies do is always motivated by money.

More people are discovering the benefits of natural treatments they can find for a relatively low cost at a local cannabis dispensary thanks to states passing legalization measures. That shift toward legalization has prescription drug makers nervous about their bottom lines. Fewer people will purchase their expensive, powerful, and potentially dangerous drugs if they can get relief by using medical cannabis.

A study found “the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly” in states with medicinal cannabis laws.  This terrifies Big Pharma – medicinal cannabis is a competitor that drug companies do not want deal with. Instead, these companies are spending vast amounts of money to stifle the trend toward certain cannabis policies.

These drug manufacturers funnel money to different organizations, politicians, and lobbyists who advocate against medicinal cannabis. Because different companies have different concerns, the larger picture can get pretty complicated. Let's focus on a single example, pharmaceutical manufacturer Insys Therapeutics, Inc., for a clear example of how and why Big Pharma is throwing money around to shape public opinion about cannabis.

Arizona: A Case Study to Apply to Massachusetts

In November of 2016, Arizona's airwaves were full of doomsday prophecies about the havoc medical cannabis would cause. A ballot initiative had put the question of legalizing cannabis in front of the voting public, and Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy (ARDP) wanted the answer to be "no." So did Insys Therapeutics Inc., and that's why the company gave $500,000 to ARDP during the run-up to the vote. Throwing its money around proved successful for Insys; the proposition was narrowly defeated.

So who is Insys and why did they drop half a million dollars to defeat a bill that would legalize cannabis in a single state?

A Manufacturer of Synthetic THC Fights to Keep Natural Growth Illegal

Over the years, Insys has made money by manufacturing drugs that could potentially be replaced by medicinal cannabis. One drug, dronabinol (Marinol), is a synthetic version of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. That’s right, Insys worked to keep individuals from cultivating their own medicine in order to make sure they’d have to buy a synthetic version they could only get from a drug company.

What’s worse, a study looking at the toxicity of synthetic cannabinoids found that these extremely-potent drugs were associated with a number of symptoms people did not get from using natural cannabis:

  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Hypertension
  • Emesis (vomiting)
  • Hypokalaemia (lowered potassium in blood)

Although Insys no longer manufactures dronabinol, the company's newer synthetic version of THC, Syndros, has recently received Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) approval. Funding anti-legalization efforts in Arizona had nothing to do with responsible drug policy, it was about eliminating competition. As long as pharmaceutical companies can keep cannabis off the market, they have a monopoly.

Insys has even admitted as much. In a 2007 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), an Insys spokesperson explained to potential investors that:

“Legalization of marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids in the United States could significantly limit the commercial success of any dronabinol product candidate. . .

. . . If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”

Take it from Insys – their sales would be reduced by legalization. Notice that there's no mention of what's best for patients. Why would Insys care about them?

Big Pharma Defends its Deadly Chronic Pain ‘Market’

More than synthetics, Big Pharma spends big lobbying bucks in order to keep cannabis away from chronic pain sufferers. For opioid makers, chronic pain is a very lucrative market. But for our nation, using only pills to treat chronic pain has contributed the unprecedented opioid epidemic.

A quick look at the headlines – any day, anywhere in America – tells the tale of the absolute devastation opioids are causing in communities. Misinformation is a game Big Pharma likes to play, but the truth has become awfully hard to hide. The United States suffers an average of 78 opioid overdoses per day. Fewer painkillers is probably good for most citizens, but pharma companies would lose profits.

The typical physician in states with medical marijuana laws prescribes 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year, according to one study. Cannabis has been shown to effectively treat a variety of chronic pains. If patient health is the focus, it makes sense to continue prescribing and researching cannabis as an alternative to destructive narcotics.

Big Pharma Distances Itself from The Medical Community

There is a community of medical professionals working to help people live healthier lives with less pain. Big Pharma, on the other hand, seeks to manipulate the medical community to serve its bottom line.

At the end of 2016, the several executives and managers from Insys were arrested “on charges that they led a nationwide conspiracy to bribe medical practitioners to unnecessarily prescribe a fentanyl-based pain medication and defraud healthcare insurers.” Fentanyl is an opioid that is 50 to 100 times as powerful as heroin. And Insys was trying to push it on people by using deceptive practices.

Sira Naturals is here to serve our patients. We have lobbied for the passira of responsible cannabis laws, and we followed the guidelines and regulations established by the State of Massachusetts. Despite the black-market reputation of cannabis, Sira has conducted all its business in an over-the-table manner. It's the giant corporations who seem to be resorting to dishonest tactics.

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