Doc Refuses To Sell Leukemia Med To Big Pharma

Matt Weeks September 1, 2019 7 comments

A doctor refuses to sell to Big Pharma a medicine that could treat all blood cancer types.

In a rare and important move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently granted special, preliminary approval to a cannabis-based drug being used to treat several blood cancer types. 

Chrysoeriol, a new drug that has shown promise in combatting acute myeloid leukemia (AML), has been granted approval under the FDA’s Orphan Drug Act. The law, passed in 1983, allows expedited approval for drugs that treat rare diseases, such as Huntington’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, and ALS. 

The special designation does not mean the US can manufacture and sell the drug. Rather, it allows its maker certain tax breaks and benefits in order to get the drug to market. 

This is a very big deal. 

Chrysoeriol was Created Outside Big Pharma

It makes sense that Chrysoeriol is an orphan drug. As far as Big Pharma is concerned, it was born without parents. 

The drug was developed by a Caribbean scientist named Henry Lowe, a former academic and CEO of a small pharmaceutical company called Medicanja, the first medical cannabis company in Jamaica. 

The news about Chrysoeriol marks the first time the FDA has granted orphan drug approval to a medicine created in a developing country. But if Lowe has his way, it won’t be the last. 

blood cancer types

Via Repeating Islands; Dr Henry Lowe

Although Lowe has had plenty of offers — up to $50 million — from Big Pharma companies for the rights to Chrysoeriol, he has refused to sell. In his eyes, the new drug could unlock the ability to treat all kinds of blood cancer types. And, that kind of good shouldn’t be in the hands of American companies that have traditionally put profits above patients. 

For now, Lowe has promised to shepherd the drug through the FDA approval process via Medicanja and his Maryland-based company, Flavocure Biotech LLC. He believes the new drug should be ready for approval in one to two years. 

How This Medicine Kills Blood Cancer Types

Chrysoeriol has shown effectiveness in combatting acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of several blood cancer types that Lowe researches. A synthesis of cannflavins creates this drug. These are special chemical compounds within cannabis that are unrelated to cannabinoids, but also have powerful pain relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Cannflavins were first discovered in 1985, but have been little studied since then. 

More specifically, Chrysoeriol is created by a biosynthesis of cannflavins A and B. Researchers have heralded these molecules for their potential as pain relievers. But Lowe and his company found something far more interesting: the ability to inhibit certain blood cancer types

Chrysoeriol is most effective for AML patients because of the unique genetics of these cells. About one-third of AML patients’ leukemia cells contain a gene mutation called FLT3. Chryseoriol is able to efficiently find and target FLT3 mutations, helping beat back the cancer. 

Why Dr. Henry Lowe’s Medicine is Important 

AML is a difficult disease to treat. It’s one of several bone and blood cancer types in the leukemia family. AML starts in the bone marrow and quickly spreads to the blood, lymphatic system, and rest of the body. It’s fast and relentless. 

blood cancer types

Right now, there are very few drugs approved to fight AML — and those that are approved aren’t very good. These come with bad side effects due to a high toxicity level. Older patients with AML have about a 20 percent chance of living for five years. Young people have sixty-seven percent survival rate for the same time period. Treatment is imperative, but the toxicity of that gives AML sufferers a difficult journey.

Chrysoeriol is exciting because it’s a non-toxic drug free of the unwanted side effects of traditional anti-cancer drugs. It could provide a better avenue for AML sufferers of all ages. It’s a medicine that extends quantity of life without reducing quality. 

Beyond Blood Cancer Types

While Chryosoeirol is a huge deal, it’s not the only good thing to come out of Henry Lowe’s laboratory. Further, Lowe’s several other patent applications show no sign of slowing his research. 

With a new approach and an eye toward a patient-first model of treatment, Lowe’s impact could reach far beyond blood cancer types and spur on a new kind of people-centric oncological care. Further, Dr. Lowe’s treatments could revolutionize the way we understand — and treat — all kinds of cancer.

And he’s not alone. Lowe attended both Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a business man and philanthropist, but not in the way typical of American elites. He wants to lift his own country out of poverty and help cancer patients lead better, longer lives. 

That’s why he didn’t take the $50 million Big Pharma offered him. Instead, he’s trying to raise $3.5 million towards further independent testing.  The future of blood cancer treatment looks very promising, thanks to Dr. Lowe.

Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

7 comments

  1. Avatar

    Elvis

    Is there any cannibis that helps with Dementia and altzeimers ?

    • THC is known to break down the amyloid plaque that causes Alzheimers. It is being studied in nursing homes currently. youtube and google cannabis and Alzheimers and you will find information

  2. Avatar

    Bobby Trahan

    Great article Matt ! The article touches on two very important issues. The first being the fact that BIG PHARM wants control over new drugs so they can make more profits by using a marketing strategy called
    CRS (controlled release strategy). Independent pharmaceutical companies are always on BP radar.
    Second issue is the fact that the tidal wave of research from the cannabis plant’s medicinal value is going have huge impact on helping people who want a natural form of treatment.
    Keep up the good work Dr.Lowe !!

  3. Avatar

    Paula Clinton

    Thank you, Matt, for a well written and informative article. And thank you, Dr. Lowe, for your passion, hard work and good heart. ?

  4. Avatar

    Dinah LaFaber

    Having a son with a rare (RES) red ear syndrome, getting pain relief required “special needs” approval. Without could never afford it. And still in ER regularly. Drug had questionable compounds but have little options. Seeking more natural possibilities everyday. Herald Dr. Lowe hoping his studies expand successfully.

  5. Avatar

    Lawrence Goodwin

    It’s good to know that doctors are finally being allowed to study female cannabis flowers as potential treatments for cancerous diseases. Many advocates have long wondered if they could yield cures for cancer. Yet researchers everywhere continue to be stymied by our evil Schedule I “marihuana” classification and it’s preposterous claim that cannabis flowers “no currently accepted medical use.” More than 30 of 50 states now prove otherwise.

    p.s. Articles on RxLeaf should be more carefully edited before they are posted. This one has a glaring grammatical error in the headline, “How Chrysoeriol was Creates Outside Big Pharma,” which detracts from whatever follows. It’s also incorrect to say “spurn a new kind” of anything. “Spurn” means to “turn away from.” I’m sure the writer meant to say “spur.” (I made the exact same mistake early in my journalism career).

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