Pfizer Inc., one of the trifecta pharmaceutical companies manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines, is acquiring another large pharma company that is conducting clinical trials on a variety of drugs, including one that is examining the efficacy of cannabinoids.
Pfizer Inc. announced the planned acquisition of Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. on December 13. The two companies signed an agreement stating that Pfizer would receive all shares of Arena for $100 per share, paid in cash at the value of the agreement set to $6.7 billion. Arena offers a variety of multi-stage clinical trials for the drugs they’re currently developing—one of which is exploring the use of an oral cannabinoid medicine for gastrointestinal disorders.
According to a press release, the board of directors for both Pfizer and Arena approved of the deal. “The proposed acquisition of Arena complements our capabilities and expertise in Inflammation and Immunology, a Pfizer innovation engine developing potential therapies for patients with debilitating immuno-inflammatory diseases with a need for more effective treatment options,” said Pfizer Global President & General Manager Mike Gladstone. “Utilizing Pfizer’s leading research and global development capabilities, we plan to accelerate the clinical development of etrasimod for patients with immuno-inflammatory diseases.” Gladstone operates under the Pfizer inflammation and immunology department.
Arena has been working on a multitude of “development stage therapeutic candidates,” ranging from gastroenterology, dermatology, cardiology and more. One particular treatment of note is etrasimod, which is being tested as a treatment for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Other drug candidates for gastroenterology, dermatology and cardiology.
Furthermore, Arena has been working on an antagonist for a cannabinoid type 2 receptor. According to an interview with Nawan Butt, a portfolio manager of The Medical Cannabis and Wellness ICITS ETC, he mentions the importance of this deal to further push progress for medical cannabis research opportunities. “This acquisition displays the interest big pharma is taking in the fast-evolving world of cannabinoids. We are encouraged by the acquisition as it provides more resources and a wider platform for pharmaceutical development of cannabinoids. Overall, this transaction is in line [with] Pfizer’s long-term focus on innovative research and a great win for our investors,” he told proactiveinvestors.com.
Arena’s involvement in cannabinoid research is related to its drug candidate, Olorinab (APD371). “Olorinab (APD371) is an investigational, oral, peripherally acting, highly selective, full agonist of the cannabinoid type 2 receptor (CB2). Olorinab is an internally discovered drug candidate that Arena is exploring for development in several indications, with an initial focus on visceral pain associated with gastrointestinal disorders,” Arena’s website reads. “This compound, through its selectivity for CB2 versus CB1, is under investigation for pain relief without psychoactive adverse effects.”
Aside from official clinical trials, cannabis research has been growing rapidly over the past decade. But in early November, NORML released a compilation of 450 peer-reviewed studies in “Clinical Applications for Cannabis & Cannabinoids: A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, 2000-2021.”
The compilation showcases the wide variety of studies examining cannabis in conjunction with autism, chronic pain, diabetes, fibromyalgia, migraines and PTSD. Studies such as these are likely to become the building blocks for clinical trials down the line. “NORML has long advocated for the enactment of evidence-based marijuana policies,” said the review’s main author, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “When it comes to addressing questions specific to the safety and therapeutic efficacy of cannabis, this publication provides the evidence that patients and their physicians—as well as lawmakers—need to know.”
From studies on cannabis as an aid for sleep to exercise, the researchers in the U.S. are poised to continue conducting studies on cannabis for years to come, paving the way for more clinical trials to be conducted as well.