Billions To Be Made, Trillions To Be Saved
The end of the year is inevitably a time to look forward. Hopefully, for the best.
Here at the Outsider Club, we’re very excited about the potential for the marijuana sector to take on the pain industry, and ultimately save countless lives.
Nothing else is showing the same potential to dramatically reduce dependence on opioids, along with the horrendous consequences it causes.
And it isn’t just lives, and quality of life, here.
We’re also talking about insane amounts of money. Yours, mine, and everyone else’s.
Last week I wrote about how we should start thinking about medical marijuana businesses like pharmaceutical companies.
That was from an investor angle, pure and simple. But that leaves out a big part of the picture.
We should look at the massive social and economic reasons that underlie why medical marijuana stocks will receive the support they need to rapidly break into — and ultimately disrupt — the $635 billion pain industry.
A $1 Trillion Dumpster Fire
More Americans — just over 64,000 — died from opioid overdoses last year than in the entire Vietnam War, making it the leading cause of death for those under 50 years old.
And as bad as the death toll is, 1.3 million Americans needed to go to the emergency room or use inpatient hospital care for opioid-related issues last year.
That is based on the latest full data set available for the nation, which is from 2014, when deaths were at 28,647.
If the rise in both statistics is the same, 2016 may have seen a 123% jump to 2.9 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays.
Then there is the cost in dollars and cents. In 2015, the White House Council of Economic Advisers took a stab at the total cost of the opioid crisis, from hospital bills to lost wages to early deaths, and pegged it around half a trillion dollars.
33,091 people died that year, making a proportional jump in costs in 2016 approach a full trillion.
Even More Numbers
Last year, right around one of the releases of data showing how terrible the surge in opioid abuse was becoming, one statistic stood out to me.
About 80% of the global opioid supply is consumed in the United States.
Americans seem to be in FAR more pain than any other population in the world.
Of course, that is a non sequitur. At face value, there is absolutely no way it could be true, considering the U.S. accounts for about 5% of the global population.
Something else is clearly going on, and the elephant in the room is the $635 billion industry that is selling the “cures” on both sides of the problem — both the opioids that get people hooked, and the other pharmaceuticals used to ween addicts off of them.
Patients came in to deal with just about any condition you can name — cancers, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, PTSD, etc.
They all left with huge bottles of pills. Doctors wrote over 300 million prescriptions last year in the U.S.
Doctors pulled in kickbacks and massive mark-ups, and the pain industry has grown to the point where it would rival Switzerland as the 20th largest country by GDP at $635 billion.
Is 2018 the Year We Push Back?
Throughout all of this, the government hasn’t just been complacent. It has made things worse.
2016 saw the passage of the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.” It wasn’t until October of this year that whistleblowers were able to reveal through a joint investigation of 60 Minutes and The Washington Post how it has completely derailed DEA efforts to crack down.
One pharmacy in the town of Kermit, West Virginia, population 392, received 9 million hydrocodone pills over two years, and the DEA couldn’t step in to stop it.
But there are signs that the tide is turning, and maybe 2018 is the year that we start to see some real progress.
In June, the FDA did something for the first time ever. It asked Endo International Plc to withdraw an opioid painkiller, Opana ER, from the market for public health reasons.
We’re also seeing a wide range of studies being proposed and approved to evaluate medical marijuana as a substitute for existing pain medications.
And with Cannibidiol, or CBD, already legal for use in all 50 states, the most promising medical marijuana derivatives are ready to take on the pain industry without any of the legal limbo or roadblocks many associate with the marijuana sector.
2018 is going to be a big year for the companies that are on the cutting edge of CBD production and research.
Let’s all hope the pace keeps accelerating. The sooner these marijuana-based drugs come to market, the sooner tens of thousands of lives and close to a trillion dollars will be saved each year.
Adam's editorial talents and analysis drew the attention of senior editors at Outsider Club, which he joined in mid-2012. While he has acquired years of hands-on experience in the editorial room by working side by side with ex-brokers, options floor traders, and financial advisors, he is acutely aware of the challenges faced by retail investors after starting at the ground floor in the financial publishing field. For more on Adam, check out his editor's page.
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