January 5, 2022

Major Pfizer acquisition adds Billions to Cannabinoid Market

After seeing promise in an innovative new cannabinoid-based bowel disease treatment, Pfizer has officially entered the medical cannabis industry.

Last week, the pharmaceutical giant purchased the clinical-stage company Arena pharmaceuticals for the modest price of $6.7 billion in hopes of furthering their advances in combating gastrointestinal diseases through the use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, and the development of their latest investigational drug known as Olorinab.

Arena’s team has developed the drug as means to treat gastrointestinal disorders with an initial focus on mitigating visceral pain associated with this area. Arena’s website states that this compound, through its selectivity for specific receptors, is under investigation for pain relief without any adverse effects or unwanted psychoactive properties.

"The proposed acquisition of Arena complements our capabilities and expertise in Inflammation and Immunology, a Pfizer innovation engine developing potential therapies for patients with debilitating immuno-inflammatory diseases with a need for more effective treatment options," said in the press release Mike Gladstone, Global President of Inflammation & Immunology at Pfizer.

Amit D. Munshi, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Arena, shared Pfizer’s enthusiasm, claiming that the pharmaceutical giant could provide essential resources which would enable Arena to accelerate their mission of delivering a solution for ailing patients while also satisfying the fiduciary responsibilities of their stockholders.

"We're delighted to announce Pfizer's proposed acquisition of Arena, recognizing Arena's potentially best in class S1P molecule and our contribution to addressing unmet needs in immune-mediated inflammatory diseases," he said.

With this latest acquisition, Pfizer joins a long list of other major pharmaceutical companies who have made an entrance into the cannabis market. In 2017, Canadian research and development (R&D) Avicanna became a resident of Johnson & Johnson’s JLabs in Toronto; in 2018, Canadian Tilray reached new markets with the help of Swiss-owned Novartis AG; and in 2021, global biopharmaceutical company Jazz Pharmaceutical successfully acquired GW Pharmaceutical and their drug Epidolex, the first FDA-authorized CBD medicine for treating children with Lennox-Gastuat and Dravet syndromes.

While this multi-billion dollar acquisition by a household name is certainly newsworthy, don’t expect this to be the last (or the biggest) marijuana merger of the year. 

- Sabaghi, D 2021, ‘Pfizer Bets On Medical Cannabis With 6.7 Billion Acquisition', Forbes, 20 DEC 2021, Accessed from Online Article.

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