Cannabis pill on horizon
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008
Drug company Echo Pharmaceuticals expects to sell the world's first cannabis pill within five years, targeting a $5.85-billion global market, its chief executive said.
The privately held Dutch company faces competition from Canada's Cannasat, which is also developing a pill. In 2005, Canada became the first country in the world to approve a cannabis-based spray produced by Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals Plc as a treatment for multiple sclerosis patients.
U.S. regulators granted approval for a clinical trial for GW's under-the-tongue spray called Sativex, but the company said in July that European regulators had requested a further clinical study before approval. Dutch drug company Echo Pharmaceuticals claims they will have a marketable cannabis pill in five years.
Echo said it will start clinical studies and trials of its pill, to be marketed as Namisol, in the first half of 2008.
"The global cannabis-based drugs market could be worth ($6 billion)," Echo Pharmaceuticals chief executive Geert Woerlee told Reuters in an interview Wednesday. "As an early adopter, we could get 20 to 30 per cent market share."
He said studies showed that cannabis-based drugs may be effective for afflictions such as Parkinson's, MS and migraine and could also help patients with Alzheimer's.
The Netherlands has tolerated the sale of cannabis in coffee shops for decades and in 2003 became the world's first country to make it available as a prescription drug in pharmacies to treat chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite in cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis patients.