Cannabinoid executive switcheroo: FSD Pharma grabs GW’s ex-marketing chief for CEO job

GW Pharma growing area for CBD Epidiolex
GW Pharma, whose cannabinoid growing fields are shown here, is losing its top marketing executive to competing CBD company FSD Pharma. (GW Pharma)

As the prescription cannabinoid market heats up, FSD Pharma has tapped some expert help—in the form of a new CEO who previously headed up marketing for rival GW Pharmaceuticals.

Rupert Haynes, most recently GW’s global marketing chief, helped guide the company’s cannabis-derived drug Epidiolex to a historic FDA approval, and now he’ll take the reins at FSD.

GW’s epilepsy drug Epidiolex snagged the first-ever cannabinoid nod in June, but potential competitors—including FSD—are forging their path to market, too. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency rescheduled Epidiolex in September, and the drug hit shelves earlier this month, albeit with some blowback over its steep $32,500-per-year price tag.

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RELATED: GW Pharma looks to dispel cannabis stigma with Epidiolex launch

While Epidiolex is specifically approved for seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy—Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome—GW and other prescription CBD hopefuls are trialing their drugs to treat a wide range of conditions and symptoms, from Alzheimer’s and autism spectrum disorders to Parkinson’s and pain management.

FSD Pharma co-chair Raza Bokhari said in a statement that Haynes will be instrumental in the Ontario-based company’s vision to become a “a global cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical leader.” The new CEO “blends world-class specialty pharmaceutical experience with a fast-paced biotech mindset” that’ll come in handy for assembling a “top-tier” management team, chasing targeted M&A and revving up FSD’s global expansion plans.

GW Pharmaceuticals said in an email statement to FiercePharma, “Whilst at GW Rupert was focused on analyzing new markets for early stage development projects. We thank him for his work at GW and wish him well for the future.”

FSD Pharma is licensed to cultivate cannabis under Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. It is currently involved, along with R&D partner SciCann Therapeutics, in a “Steady Stomach” clinical study that uses CBD to treat irritable bowel syndrome. Also last month, FSD announced plans to acquire Therapix Biosciences to pursue new CBD therapies in pain, migraine and other central nervous system disorders. Therapix is currently evaluating cannabinoid-based THX-110 in trials to treat Tourette syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea and chronic pain.

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Haynes is not the only high-profile addition FSD has made recently. Earlier this month, the company named former President Trump advisor and veteran lobbyist David Urban to its board of directors. Urban, the president of American Continental Group lobbying firm and a CNN political commentator, worked on the 2016 Trump campaign and 2016 Republican National Convention.

This story was updated to include a comment from GW Pharmaceuticals and correct the price of Epidiolex to per year.