The Impact of Cannabis on the OTC and Prescription Drug Channels



With the increasing number of U.S. states legalizing medical cannabis, pharmaceutical companies are feeling the pressure of losing existence in terms of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. According to BDS Analytics, there are five ways in which legal cannabis is affecting the OTC and prescription drug channels.

  1. 64% of adults in the U.S consider cannabis has therapeutic benefits, and 51% think it to be as a medicine.

  2. By 2022 the total spending on medical cannabis will be $12.3 Billion.

  3. The most common OTC and prescription drugs are for pain, sleep, and anxiety, which medical cannabis can treat.

  4. 41% of consumers are choosing medical cannabis as an alternative to OTC and prescription drugs.

  5. Easy access to legal cannabis in dispensary without the need for prescriptions and its affordability poses a threat to the pharmaceutical companies.

Let’s understand how legal cannabis has made its way to becoming an alternative to OTC and prescription drugs.

Chemical Constituents of Cannabis

Cannabis plants have over 100 different chemical compounds, each with unique formulations and effects. THC and CBD are the dominant compounds that take the lead for the herb’s effects. CBN, CBG, terpenes that give aroma to the plant are also responsible for different effects, but in comparison are less significant.

THC or tetrahydrocannabinol- THC is responsible for the euphoric effect one feels after consumption. Recreational use is the primary purpose of THC and in the U.S 10 states have made it legal, although it remains illegal at the federal level. Users believe that the compound has pain-relieving properties, but its side effects of causing high do not make it preferable for treating health conditions.

CBD or cannabidiol- CBD is highly available in industrial hemp variety and marijuana. It does not have psychoactive effects, instead is responsible for working against the effects of THC. CBD holds the attribute of delivering remedial benefits to several health concerns like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, inflammation, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, eczema, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and symptoms of cancer. It is an ideal consumer-friendly product in the drugstores like in the Hamilton, Ontario cannabis stores.

CBD has a better headway here comparably to THC. It is leading the path of glory for the green herb. Furthermore, the World Health Organization approves of CBD’s medicinal benefits and that it is safe to consume. Also, the passing of the Farm Bill in December 2018, removed hemp-based CBD from Schedule I drug list. 

But we also cannot negate the contribution of the latter. Some experts consider that the synergistic effects THC, CBD, and other elements can provide the best relief by stimulating the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body. The ECS helps maintain homeostasis that further regulates sleep, emotions, memory, reproduction, fertility, body temperature, and more.  

Some FDA Approved CBD Drugs

On realizing the medicinal possibilities of cannabis, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came forward with a set of guidelines for any cannabis-based products. Several companies are trying to lure customers by marketing cannabis products and also putting the consumers’ health at risk. The agency is trying to prevent that by introducing regulations for safe cannabis consumption.

Currently, the FDA approves the four cannabis products:

Epidiolex- It purely contains CBD compound created for treating symptoms of seizures related to Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome caused due to epilepsy.

Marinol and Syndros- These cannabis-related drugs can treat anorexia and weight loss among AIDS patients. It contains Drabinol, which is a synthetic THC drug.

Cesamet- It contains Nabilone that mimics the chemical composition of THC. Cesamet can provide antiemetic and analgesic benefits. 

You can visit the FDA website to confirm about cannabis drug regulations.

The Reason behind this Shift



There are a few reasons why this shift of OTC and prescription drugs to cannabis-based drugs is taking place.

Flexibility of Use

OTC and prescription drugs come in a rigid form such as capsules and liquids. The benefit of medical cannabis is you get the scope of using it in various other forms besides pills. Here are the options:

Vaporizers- Vaping is one of the most popular forms of experiencing the medical benefits of cannabis. The process involves heating the e-juice to a point until it releases a vapor which the user inhales. For people who want quick relief, vaping can deliver that and Puffco Peak is the new release electronic dab rig that is approachable to use.

Tinctures/Sprays- You may see in dispensaries there are bottles of liquid that comes along with a dropper. These are tinctures. You need to administer it sublingually, hold it under your tongue for some time, and then swallow. The method of application for sprays is the same as any other spray product. The onset of both ways is quick.

Edibles- These are friendly options. A user can infuse CBD oil with any food item it can blend well. But the effects take time to show. If you're looking for information on how to make edibles from cannabis, you can find plenty of recipes online. Make sure you be careful about dosing.

Topical- You can also find cannabis-based balm products that can soothe the pain-affected area.    

Near to Zero Side Effects

OTC and pharmaceuticals accompany with numerous side effects like nausea, kidney failure, addiction, and heart diseases. It can have long term effects on your body. Apart from the psychedelic effects of THC, medical cannabis especially can cause dizziness or dry mouth only when you take a high dosage.

Herbal Medicine

No matter how many pharmaceutical pills we gulp down, we always wish for an alternative herbal treatment to all our health concerns. Since medical cannabis has promising benefits, people with different conditions try out these and usually are happy with the results. A study claims that 60% of CBD consumers find cannabis more effective than prescription drugs.

Future of Medical Cannabis

A study on opioid users indicates that 46% of them now prefer using cannabis to treat their conditions. The same study on users of prescription drugs for sleep, anxiety, chronic pain shifted to using cannabis on receiving positive results. If both recreational and medical are federally legal, the pharmaceutical industry will have to do a lot to prove its effectiveness.


So, is medical cannabis replacing prescription drugs? Well, the answer to that would be cannabis may not be the solution to every physical and psychological condition. Several factors need consideration before you try out any of these drugs. Nevertheless, subjective evidence supports its efficacy to some health concerns without causing negative effects. The user also should familiarize oneself with the consumption methods and the correct dosage before incorporating and replacing OTC and prescription drugs.




Jillian Nelson