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Big pharma making CBD inaccessible says British CBD entrepreneur

In this week's Independent, a prominent and well-connected CBD entrepreneur, Lady Chanelle McCoy told an interviewer she was fearful that both national policy and powerful pharmaceutical companies were making CBD inaccessible to those who need it most.

McCoy seems no stranger to the workings of the pharmaceutical world; growing up her Irish family's business was in veterinary pharmaceuticals and she also worked as a sales rep for Pfizer. Now she is married to the champion English jockey, Andy McCoy and has no shortage of contacts in the sports world who may also believe that CBD will prove a reliable and more natural alternative to traditional pharmaceutical painkillers.

Her awareness of CBD began some years ago, before the compound captured public imagination. Lady McCoy saw its efficacy in treating children with severe epilepsy even before the substance was made legal. CBD is now available on prescription, but with one major caveat, there is only one approved producer in the UK, and the cost means the NHS restricts the number of children who can receive it.

When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, McCoy is candid. “We know how much it costs to make,” she says, accusing pharmaceutical corporations of being greedy. “We are well aware of just how little the raw material costs to produce. They've made it inaccessible, in my opinion.”

McCoy’s CBD business is called Pureis Ultra Pure CBD and she hopes to eventually produce both high-dose therapeutic CBD medicine alongside the lower-dosed food supplement Pureis already sells. The Irish Dragon’s Den panellist says she cares more about making her product available to as many people who need it as possible than huge profit margins.

Will big pharma ultimately take over the CBD and medical cannabis industry?

This criticism of powerful pharmaceutical companies and their tendency to put profit above people’s health is not a recent accusation. The industry has occupied a powerful but ambiguous moral space in our society for decades. Accusations such as price gouging, manipulating clinical trials, withholding AIDs and HIV medication from developing countries, causing America’s opioid epidemic and operating without any form of independent and objective regulation have dogged the sector for years.

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The UK only prescribes cannabis or high-dose CBD based medication for a limited number of conditions, multiple sclerosis, treatment-resistant epilepsy and sometimes chemotherapy-induced nausea. In addition to that, the guidelines for specialists (they cannot be prescribed by a GP) are that they are a last resort medication. A part of that reason is how prohibitively expensive they are. McCoy indicated that she believed the cost of pharmaceutically created cannabis-based medication was not reflected in its relative ease to source and produce, evidence suggests this may be the case.

U.S. Pharmaceuticals perhaps making CBD inaccessible

Across the water, our U.S. counterparts may also be facing their own difficulties with “big pharma’s” attempts to muscle in on the CBD and medical cannabis industry. Research has shown that the populations of states where medicinal marijuana is permitted, use far fewer prescription medicines than states where it is not. Cannabis poses a significant financial threat to “big pharma” as a medication.

One pharmaceutical firm, GW pharmaceuticals, is attempting to become the first and only manufacturer of an FDA-approved CBD medication. Some sources claim that this pharmaceutical company is paying lobbyists to promote a law that would effectively give the company a CBD monopoly. If this were to happen, America’s small-time medical cannabis and CBD dispensaries might become obsolete and CBD might get a whole lot more expensive.

For now, in both the UK and US, there is something of a legal limbo surrounding CBD and cannabis-based medication. It’s still easily purchased as a health food supplement and save for a few exceptions like Sativex, it’s not fully classed as a pharmaceutical either. If CBD and other cannabis-based medication were to be fully conquered by the pharmaceutical industry, one thing is for certain, it would be a huge shakeup to the current CBD industry.

Josephine Gibney

Josephine Gibney is a freelance writer from Waterford. She has worked as a lifestyle reporter, a creative copywriter and a communications specialist over the last ten years. Her short fiction was longlisted for the 2020 Sean O’Faolain Prize and she is currently working on her first novel.

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