One to Keep an Eye On: Cannabis to Treat Diabetes

August 5, 2017

The discovery of diabetes treatments synthesized from CBD could potentially turn the cannabis industry on its head. 

The two major chemicals in cannabis are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the component that gets people high, while CBD has been shown to be an effective treatment for child epilepsy, schizophrenia, glaucoma, arthritis, chronic pain, and Crohn’s desease. There are currently two FDA-approved cannabis-based medications available to treat nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy.  

Cannabis products may one day be included in regular diabetes treatments.

Cannabis products may one day be included in regular diabetes treatments.Public support for cannabis as a medical treatment has been mild, however, given the relative rarity of the conditions it has been used to treat. Recent news from Israel suggests that CBD may eventually be used as an affective treatment for diabetes as well. Phase I clinical trials are currently underway there and a multi-national coalition of biotech companies in the U.K. and Israel is now preparing for Phase 2 trials. 

The severity of diabetes in the United States is difficult to overstate. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes in 2012. As the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2010,  diabetes has become one of the nation’s most pressing health concerns.

Needless to say, an effective treatment for diabetes synthesized from CBD would have transformative effects on the cannabis industry. A sharp increase in public support for research into the medicinal properties of cannabis would fuel additional demand and offer new sources of reliable funding at the state and federal levels. 

Demand for cannabis strains high in CBD content will allow growers to specialize in those strains to supply solely for research purposes, while the prospect of attracting government clients would incentivize transparency and quality assurance among cannabis cultivators. This will result in a proliferation of higher standards across the industry. 

Testing labs would face higher scrutiny as well, requiring additional capital to upgrade or purchase new equipment and to attract more skilled labor. More than a few will be unable to meet such new demands, while many others stand to be phased out by government-administered laboratories or those owned by pharmaceutical giants.

In the event that a CBD-based diabetes medication is mass produced for the American public (as far off a prospect as that may seem), some cannabis businesses will gain millions of new potential consumers while others face extinction. The inevitable incursion of Big Pharma into the industry would create a vastly new entrepreneurial ecosystem to which existing businesses will be forced to adapt. The market disruptions resulting from such concentrations of capital are difficult to predict, but would certainly change the rules of the game for most of the current players.