According to cannabis research company ArcView, the North American legal marijuana market is forecast to surpass $22 billion in sales annually by 2021. What is feeding the growth of the budding industry? Progression is playing a significant role, with Mexico officially legalizing medical marijuana last year, the state of California legalizaiong recreational marijuana on January 1, and Canada nationally legalizing recreational marijuana this July. The result of favorability and the increased sales has been a bull market for marijuana stocks.
This wasn’t the case for Insys Therapeutics (INSY), a small-cap drug developer whose pipeline possesses cannabinoid-based drugs, lost nearly 90% of its value in the two years leading to November 2017. But, in December this marijuana stock saw tremendous growth. The stock closed November at $5.30 a share and then closed out the year at $9.62, gaining 82% in just one month.
So, what happened? November’s decline stemmed from the company’s issues with drug, Subsys, a sublingual synthetic opioid containing fentanyl that is approved to treat breakthrough cancer pain. Lawsuits were filed, and arrests were made alleging that the company’s marketing team intentionally marketed Subsys at off-label indications to increase up sales. Although, nothing has yet been proven in court, the company took multiple quarterly hits due to the allegations.
Over the summer, Insys launched its other drug, Syndros, for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and anorexia associated with AIDS. Syndros is cannabidiol-based drug and is responsible for the company’s association with the marijuana industry. During December, Insys announced that the Food and Drug Administration had accepted its new drug application (NDA) for buprenorphine sublingual spray pain management. The FDA has also granted the fast-track designation to the Insys’ cannabidiol oral solution for the treatment of Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. There are no approved treatments that are currently on the market for the rare disorder. Clinical development is expected to launch during quarter one of 2018, with the fast-track grant contributing to the probability of an accelerated review process.