As drugmakers dip their toes into the water of cannabis-based drugs, major companies have so far mostly shied away from diving in. Now, a Teva subsidiary is looking for the on-ramp with a distribution deal with an Israeli medical cannabis company.
Israeli subsidiary Salomon, Levin, Elstein (SLE) inked a deal with Canndoc, a publicly traded producer of GMP cannabis products, to distribute to Israeli hospitals, health maintenance organizations and all pharmacies, Canndoc said in a release.
SLE will also provide logistical support to distribute Canndoc’s products abroad to countries that support the sale and distribution of medical cannabis.
"The agreement brings together our well-established pharmaceutical distribution network with Canndoc's high quality medical cannabis industry presence and market leadership," SLE CEO Aviad Bossi said in a statement. "Beyond the operations in Israel, this agreement will provide Canndoc significant logistical capabilities that can support Canndoc's exporting operations from Israel."
The deal will have a three-year term with two-year extensions available, the companies said.
In a statement, Teva spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty said the deal did not represent the parent company's business strategy.
"This is not a Teva announcement, nor is this a overarching Teva business deal," she said in an email. "The news is not representative of an area the business is planning to enter into or to infer intentions of Teva, the corporation."
SLE's deal would add the massive generics maker's subsidiary to the list of pharmas that have taken a flier out on medical cannabis in recent years. So far, the only drugmaker to have a cannabis-based drug approved by the FDA is GW Pharmaceuticals—but the industry has begun to invest in R&D with the controlled substance.
As of 2018, there were 400 active and completed clinical trials on CBD alone, according to Visual Capitalist. Big Pharma’s only major participant in those trials was French drugmaker Sanofi, which had 38 active or completed as of June 2018.
The single largest investor in cannabis clinical trials has been California-based GW Pharmaceuticals, whose cannabis-based epilepsy drug Epidiolex saw a “huge influx” of patients after its FDA approval in late 2018.
In the second quarter, Epidiolex posted $68.4 million in U.S. sales, which more than doubled the drug’s $33.4 million in the first quarter—its first on the market. GW reported in August that more than 12,000 patients had received prescriptions for the drug since its launch from more than 2,500 prescribing physicians.
Along with its approval to treat both Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, GW said it plans to file a supplemental application to the FDA for tuberous sclerosis complex later this year and has a phase 3 trial underway for the treatment of Rett syndrome. The drugmaker is also planning an EU launch for Epidiolex in France, Germany and the U.K. in late 2018 and launches in Spain and Italy in 2020.
Teva certainly isn’t the first major drugmaker to foray into the medical cannabis field as governments around the world have loosened restrictions. In fact, it's not the first time the drugmaker has stepped into the market.
In November 2016, it signed an agreement that made it the only distributor in Israel of local company Syqe Medical’s cannabis inhaler. Teva also agreed to help Syqe set up a support and instruction team of nurses for patients and healthcare providers.
Teva Israel's CEO Avinoam Sapir said at the time that Syqe's inhaler fit in with Teva’s pain product portfolio, and the company “entered the field of medical cannabis out of its deep commitment to pain patients.”
And in March 2018, Novartis struck a deal with Nanaimo, British Columbia-based Tilray to be its exclusive supplier of “non-smokable/non-combustible medical cannabis products.”
As part of the deal, Sandoz Canada said it would wholesale and distribute the products to Canadian hospitals and pharmacies and use its expertise to educate pharmacists about the products and to help Tilray develop new products and dose forms.
Back in 2017, Johnson & Johnson also waded into cannabis products when it admitted biotech Avicanna to its Toronto JLabs startup site.