European Cannabis Weekly Round-Up

Canopy Acquires German C3

On May 2nd, Canopy Growth announced the accomplishment of the acquisition process of German-based C3 Cannabinoid Compound Company, founded by Bionorica SE. This acquisition underlies a strategic move on Canopy’s side, for many a reason; first, it goes without saying, because Germany’s cannabis market is the largest in Europe.

Since May 2016, when the German Government legalised the use of cannabis medications for seriously ill patients with no other therapeutic alternative, Germany has become a harbour for Canadian companies, especially Aurora, Canopy’s direct competitor. The recent move, therefore, would provide Canopy with a better position to establish its presence among the other companies both in Germany and Worldwide.

The total cost of the acquisition amounts to €225.9 million (£191.5 million). This is the price that Canopy had to pay not only to further its presence in Europe, but most importantly to gain access to C3’s intellectual property which includes 20-year research data about dronabiol, C3’s primary medicinal offering.

Dronabinol is a chemical compound with standardised concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which in 1994 was rescheduled from annex I to annex II of the Narcotics Law (Betäubungsmittelgesetz) in order to ease research. Since 1998 dronabiol is also available by prescription to treat nausea and vomiting refractory to conventional treatment in oncology and palliative care, and for cancer pain. Dronabinol is also available in Austria, Denmark, where Canopy seeks to expand from its new German position.

Bruce Linton, Chairman and Co-CEO of Canopy Growth said: “Our goal is to build on C3’s extraordinary reputation and decades of success as we move to an innovative continuum of medical cannabis therapies that will enable physicians globally to better treat their patients.”

TerrAscend’s Sales in the EU

On Thursday 2nd, Canadian-based TerrAscend, a portfolio company of Canopy Rivers, made a double announcement about its operation in the EU. Namely, the receipt of a certificate which allows sales in the EU and a distribution partnership with a German-based pharmaceutical company.

As regards the certificate, TerrAscend announced that its manufacturing facility in Ontario has received the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification issued by the agency responsible for governing the sale of medicinal products in the European Union. Only medical cannabis from EU GMP certified facilities, or the equivalent, may be sold in the EU.

Meanwhile, TerrAscend also secured a comprehensive sales and distribution agreement with iuvo Therapeutics GmbH, a German pharmaceutical wholesaler with a cannabis-specific import and distribution licence.

TerrAscend CEO Michael Nashat said in a statement: “We will continue to expand our sales footprint going forward and will share news of these milestones as we achieve them.”

Improving Access to Medical Cannabis

David Nutt is the Edmond J Safra professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London. This week, writing in the BMJ, Prof. Nutt has warned that despite law has changed, patients are still struggling to gain access to medicinal cannabis.

In his essay, he goes through the reasons why access to cannabis medications is still very limited in the UK. Among the causes, he lists lack of knowledge of the benefits among clinicians, fear of adverse effects (like psychosis) and the potential increase in recreational use as factors adding to the resistance.

David Nutt highlights how, in fact, cannabis is the world’s oldest medicine, with evidence of such use from 3000-year-old tombs in Egypt and Siberia, whereas its prohibition is quite recent. It is believed that even Queen Victoria used cannabis medicines, particularly for period and childbirth pains.

Since the lack of access to medicinal cannabis seems to be linked to scarce knowledge and cultural issues, Nutt traces back a brief history of how cannabis came to be the object of stigma. In the early ‘30s, when the US Senate enforced cannabis prohibition, scare stories were created to justify this political choice. Similarly, its Mexican name, marijuana, was chosen in order to associate its use with clandestine immigrants.

As regards the UK, this stigma was still alive by the start of the 2000s, when despite initial openings from Tony Blair’s Labour Government, “Cannabis possession offences were made a target for the police. Hundreds of thousands of people—mostly black or other ethnic minority young men—were convicted”, as Prof. Nutt explains.

The question now is, how long will it take to free cannabis from this stigma which not only harms patients but also creates dangerous prejudices?