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This Canadian Cannabis Company Just Joined Forces With Big Pharma

A cannabis company just joined forces with Big Pharma, leaving many wondering if the outcome of such an alliance would be advantageous or disastrous for the industry.

A.J. Herrington

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This Canadian Cannabis Company Just Joined Forces With Big Pharma

The deal was announced today by Tilray Inc: the cannabis company just joined forces with Big Pharma. Tilray is a licensed manufacturer of medical marijuana products. The Toronto-based firm has production operations in British Columbia. The company just signed an exclusive agreement with Sandoz Canada of Quebec. Sandoz is a subsidiary of Sandoz International, part of the Novartis healthcare conglomerate.

A Tilray executive says this is the first time a cannabis company has entered into a deal with Big Pharma in Canada.

Under the new deal, Tilray will be the sole partner to create non-combustible medical cannabis products with Sandoz. Together, the two companies will make co-branded capsules, topicals, sprays and similar medicines.

Brendan Kennedy is the president and CEO of Tilray. He told reporters that his firm had considered a deal with several other pharma companies before settling on Sandoz.

“A lot of pharmaceutical companies are paying attention to what’s happening in this industry, and over the past few years, we’ve had conversations with a few of them… This is a huge milestone for us,” Kennedy told reporters.

Deal Puts A Familiar Name On New Products

Kennedy says that for many patients, there is still a stigma attached to cannabis. Therefore, they may be reluctant to try medical marijuana products.

The alliance with Sandoz puts a recognizable name on medicines newly on the market. Consequently, patients, doctors and drug stores are more likely to accept them.

“That was part of the opportunity we saw… To distribute Tilray products that have the Sandoz logo that pharmacists, physicians, and patients are used to seeing in their pharmaceutical packages. I think that will give physicians confidence and trust in our brand and our product,” he said in an interview.

Cannabis Gaining Acceptance In Canada

Canada legalized medical marijuana in 2001. Since then, it has gained in popularity, especially recently. In April 2017 the country’s health department Health Canada reported nearly 175,000 registered medical marijuana patients nationwide. That number soared 35 percent to more than 235,000 in just seven months.

As more patients accept medical marijuana, the healthcare industry has taken notice. The number of doctors who have written medicinal cannabis recommendations has risen, as well. Not totally surprising since we now know the benefits of THC and CBD.

Some pharmacy chains, such as Shoppers Drug Mart and PharmaChoice have signed contracts and begun to set up supply chain infrastructure to provide medical marijuana products.

Even insurance companies are getting in the game. Sun Life Financial responded to client requests and added medical marijuana coverage as an option for its group health plans earlier this year.

And some plan sponsors, such as Loblaw Companies Ltd. and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, already include coverage for medical marijuana.

Canada is scheduled to legalize recreational pot later this year.

Final Hit: This Canadian Cannabis Company Just Joined Forces With Big Pharma

Tilray has a three-step plan to implement its deal with Sandoz.

First, the company will focus on product development to create new medical marijuana therapies. The company then plans to take advantage of its sales and distribution infrastructure to educate pharmacists about the new products.

Finally, the firm will distribute Tilray Sandoz medicines to Canadian pharmacies nationwide. Will the world finally see moonrocks in orange ‘scrip bottles? The possibilities are limitless.

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