Medical cannabis refers to the use of unprocessed, whole cannabis plants and their extracts to treat certain conditions and symptoms of illness. Scientific studies of chemicals obtained from cannabis have led to approval by the U.S. FDA for medications using cannabinoid chemicals in the form of pills. As cannabis plants contain chemicals which could help treat a wide variety of illnesses, there is a growing dispute over the legalization of cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are cannabinoids of high medical interest.
THC is observed to increase appetite and reduce nausea. It is also observed to reduce inflammation, pain, and muscle control issues. CBD, on the other hand, is used for controlling mental illnesses and epileptic seizures. Interest of researchers in the use of chemical cannabidiol for the treatment of medical conditions such as childhood epilepsy is growing. CBD is used in the oil form for this treatment.
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Researchers engaged in studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are continuously exploring other possible medical uses of CBD and THC. Recently, a few pre-clinical studies have shown that cannabis extracts help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of other cancerous cells. Evidences from the cell culture study with rodents suggest that purified extracts from the whole cannabis plant can slowdown the growth of cancer cells in brain tumors. Another research study with mice has shown that the use of extracts of cannabinoids along with the radiation catalyzes the cancer-killing effect of the radiation. Several pre-clinical and clinical trials have been conducted by scientists using cannabis extracts to treat diseases such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, seizures, and mental disorders.
Increase in the legalization of cannabis in various countries across the world, rise in the demand for medical cannabis, increase in government-funded research and development activities for medical use of cannabis, and surge in the number of mergers and acquisitions are some of the factors driving the legal cannabis medical market. However, several regulatory frameworks restricting the use of cannabis is a major factor hampering the market.
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Currently, only two FDA-approved, THC-containing drugs viz. dronabinol and nabilone have been approved for use in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and for increasing the appetite in patients with extreme weight loss caused by AIDS. Several countries in Europe have approved nabiximols, which contains both CBD and THC, for use in the treatment of muscle control issues caused by multiple sclerosis. Another drug i.e. epidiolex, which is CBD–based, is undergoing clinical trials for approval for use in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. However, it has not yet been approved by the FDA.
Based on condition treated, the legal cannabis medical market has been segmented into cancer, chronic pain, migraine, arthritis, and others. Medically established studies for the use of cannabis in chronic pain treatment and increase in the number of clinical trials with cannabis extract for neuropathic and chronic pain are anticipated to drive the chronic pain segment during the forecast period. Based on mode of administration, the market has been segmented into oral, injectable, dermal patches, and others.
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Based on geography, the global legal cannabis medical market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia, and Rest of World. The U.S. currently accounts for 90% of the global cannabis sales, which makes the country a major market for legal cannabis medical. The market in Europe is anticipated to expand in the next few years, due to relaxation in policies related to use of cannabis and increase in the number of countries in the region legalizing the use of cannabis. For example, Poland is the 12th country in the European Union permitting the sale of medical cannabis for the treatment of certain conditions.
Some of the key players operating in the legal cannabis medical market are ABcann Medicinals Inc., Cannabis Sativa, Inc., GW Pharmaceutical, PLC, Medical Marijuana Inc., Abattis Bioceuticals Corp., United Cannabis Corporation, Lexaria Corp, Cara Therapeutics Inc., and International Consolidated Companies, Inc.
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