On February 3, 2021, Irish pharmaceutical company Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc has agreed to acquire UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals Plc in a cash and stock transaction valued at US$7.2 billion. This is the largest acquisition in the cannabis industry to date and a key move for pharmaceutical companies to enter the cannabis industry. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of this year. After the news of this acquisition came out, GW Pharma stock soared 46%.
GW is one of the largest cannabinoid companies in the world. Founded in 1998, it specializes in the discovery, development and commercialization of cannabis prescription drugs. It launched the world’s first botanical cannabinoid prescription drug Sativex (nabiximols), another CBD drug Epidiolex is suitable for children with epilepsy and has been approved by the US FDA and European Medicines Agency (EMA) for marketing. Jazz mainly develops drugs to improve sleep. In recent years, oncology-related businesses have also been growing.
The acquisition of the world’s largest CBD drug manufacturer means that the global pharmaceutical field is not only concerned about the potential of cannabinoids in the drug field, but has taken concrete actions to formally enter the cannabis field. This will also stimulate more companies to invest more financial, material, manpower and time costs in the development of cannabinoid drugs, and will also stimulate the research and development of cannabinoid drugs.
In December 2020, the United Nations voted to lower the level of control of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. This decision cleared the way for global cannabis research and application to medical uses. The application of cannabinoid medicine is becoming a certain trend.
Justin Gover, CEO of GW Pharmaceuticals, also stated that “In the past 20 years, our GW drugs have proven that cannabinoids are a compelling discipline… Cannabinoids have seen a very significant increase in approved indications. Potential.” GW’s main product Epidiolex has annual sales of approximately US$510 million within two years after its launch.
The CEO of Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Bruce Cozadd (Bruce Cozadd) saw its opportunity to expand sales in Europe. He believes that cannabinoid drugs still have a lot of room for growth. Over time, more and more doctors will realize the usefulness of cannabinoid drugs.
Behind the acquisition of Jazz and GW, we can also see the different strategies of some major international companies investing in medical cannabinoids.
Jazz enters the field of cannabinoid pharmaceuticals through investment and acquisition, while GW’s strategy is to pay more attention to research and development.
GW develops a set of products through the traditional regulatory approval process, which includes conducting expensive clinical trials, to stand out in the field of medical cannabis. GW attaches great importance to research and development, and it is through this strategy that it has become the world’s largest medical cannabis company. In the first three quarters of fiscal year 2019 and 2020, GW’s R&D expenditure was US$290.5 million.
GW has 278 R&D personnel, far more than 192 engaged in manufacturing and operations. According to its financial disclosure information, the company has exported its products to more than 30 countries for commercial or research purposes. GW has 767 patents issued outside the United States and 57 issued within the United States. In addition, there are 259 patents pending worldwide. The applied and pending patents include planting, plant extraction, extraction technology, drug formulation, drug delivery, cannabinoid treatment, germplasm resources, etc. GW leased three facilities under construction in the UK with a total area of 2.1 million square feet.