Expert: The Future of Products Containing Rare Cannabinoids is in Pharmacy

Pharmacy Times interviewed Dennis O’Neill, president and board member of BIOMEDICAN, on the outlook around the future of biosynthesis therapeutics that use rare cannabinoids to treat a range of health issues, from mental health disorders to diabetes.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Dennis O’Neill, president and board member of BIOMEDICAN, on the current field of research assessing biosynthesis therapeutics that use rare cannabinoids to treat a range of health issues, from mental health disorders to diabetes.

O’Neill explained that the surge in research assessing the health potential for rare cannabinoids started with cannabidiol (CBD). Once companies saw the significant consumer interest in CBD, greater interest was raised in the potential benefits other cannabinoids could have.

“A lot of research has already been done on these over decades, but it was small research teams that didn't have large budgets,” O’Neill said. “As you started seeing the consumer awareness and consumer demand going into it, then the lights started going on.”

Specifically, research into the cannabinoid compound tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) has recently surged because of its potential use as an appetite suppressant.

“I hate to say it, but the fact of the matter is that the appetite suppressant was the biggest driver,” O’Neill said. “Everybody wants to be thin and nobody wants to be crabby when they're fasting. When you’re fasting, it can affect your sugar levels and your insulin intake, so, especially in California, that's a big thing right now.”

O’Neill noted that one of the larger scale problems in the production of cannabinoid compounds is around the cultivation of the cannabis itself, which naturally differs slightly based on the lifecycles of unique plants.

“Each plant and every season are different, so you end up with a different product each and every year, kind of like with wine. You can grow the same wine in the same field, but you're not going to end up with the same wine,” O’Neill said. “When you're talking about large-scale production and going into major brands like cereals and protein drinks or even cosmetics, they need the exact same product every time.”

This led to interest in the exploration of the biosynthesis of rare cannabinoids to make the cultivation more consistent for larger scale production. Additionally, biosynthesis of these rare cannabinoids supports issues relating to the toxicity and contaminants that are naturally present in soil.

“When you go into cultivation, the plant sucks all the toxins and contaminants out of the soil, so you have to purify it,” O’Neill said. “You never really end up with a product that is completely free of toxins and contaminants.”

O’Neill explained further that the biosynthesis process for rare cannabinoids helps to ensure that the compounds produced are pharmaceutical grade, organic, and non-GMO. Additionally, the biosynthesis process can produce rare cannabinoid compounds that are bio-identical to what occurs in nature, with less natural resources and energy used in the production process.

“It's completely sustainable, and we can produce a higher quality, safer product that is 70% to 90% less expensive than what you could do through cultivation,” O’Neill said. “This is a way to be able to allow millions of people access to what would be a very expensive product otherwise.”

O’Neill noted that based on the number of clinical trials being conducted assessing the use of rare cannabinoids for various health issues, it is likely that there will be an overwhelming amount of data being released to show the potential efficacy and safety of these compounds as treatments in the coming months.

“I would imagine that we will see a tsunami of clinical data within the next 12 to 24 months that may prove out many of the claims,” O’Neill said. “At that point in time, I think that it'll be driven by doctors writing prescriptions for specific medical conditions with these compounds in mind.”