The Committee on Drug Addiction Established Big Pharma’s Dominance
On episode 4 of Anslinger: The untold cannabis conspiracy, we investigate the Committee on Drug Addiction’s influence on Big Pharma. We also talk to pharmacologist and toxicologist, Dr. Pritesh Kumar about breakthroughs in scientific research during the 1930s that spurred tremendous growth in pharmacology.
The Committee on Drug Addiction was a committee of 11 men, including Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger, who formed under the National Research Council after being reorganized from J.D. Rockefeller’s Bureau of Social Hygiene. The Committee was responsible for investigating the drug addiction problem and conducting research with the goal of chemically synthesizing a non-addictive form of morphine.
Alkaloid Chemistry Drove Pharmaceutical Breakthroughs
The Committee on Drug Addiction focused on advancing alkaloid chemistry, synthesizing plant compounds, and patenting synthesized compounds. Alkaloid Chemistry is the study of all naturally occurring systems around us and was key for growth in organic chemistry, pharmaceuticals and our modern world. In the 1930s, understanding alkaloids, which are compounds that contain nitrogen, was essential for furthering pharmaceuticals research because most pharmaceuticals, like morphine, contain nitrogen.
This understanding provides evidence that cannabis was not substantially researched at the time because it is not considered an alkaloid. Another reason for the Committee not pursuing Cannabis research could have been because the plant’s structure was too difficult to identify with the technology that was available at that time. And if the structure could not be identified, it could not be synthetically replicated. And if it could not be replicated, it could not be patented and monopolized.
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In order synthesize any plant material into a drug, the plant’s compounds must undergo four steps including: extraction, isolation, elucidation and synthesis.
According to our interviewee, Dr. Pritesh Kumar, during the extraction process researchers use a wide variety of solvents to determine which solvent yields the highest level of compound.
Isolation is the next step in the process where researchers refine the extraction process by targeting single compounds. After isolation, the structure of the compounds must be identified. Today this process is performed by Stereochemists using technology like mass spectrometry and gas chromatography, but prior to 1950 it was a guessing game performed through degradation.
Once the compound’s structure is identified, the targeted compounds can be replicated (synthesized) using chemical reagents and chemical reactions.
For opioids, this four-step process was first completed with heroin in 1895, but the two major cannabinoids in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were not isolated and synthesized until 1965.
In this episode, and episode five, our interviewee, Dr. Pritesh Kumar provides insightful information on topics like the patenting process for pharmaceuticals and the relation between the endocannabinoid system and opioid system in the human body and their respective endogenous and exogenous receptors and ligands.
Toxicologist and Pharmacologist Dr. Pritesh Kumar
Dr. Pritesh Kumar earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology, with a focus in cannabinoid (cannabis) pharmacology, from the University of Louisville, Kentucky USA. Previously, Dr. Kumar conducted pharmacological testing of FDA- approved drugs as potential ligands for the cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) and investigated the pharmacology of cannabinoids. Furthermore, he tested a number of opiates in pharmacological assays to investigate if these compounds displayed affinity towards the cannabinoid receptors.
Dr. Kumar is the CEO of KYDS LLC (Kentucky Distillation Services), a contract manufacturing company which offers process development services associated with industrial scale distillation / purification, refining process chemistry, contract formulation, and optimization pertaining to the purification of unrefined/crude industrial hemp extracts (i.e. oil) via a proprietary platform for Licensed Producers.
Dr. Kumar is the Senior Managing Director and previous CEO of PhytoSciences, an international organization comprised of 40+ scientists based in India, Canada, Africa, Latin America, and the USA. The company consults in the areas clinical trial solutions, novel drug delivery technology development, industrial scale manufacturing, analytical testing, and commercial bioprocessing. Dr. Kumar was the primary investigator of the largest harm-reduction cohort observational study across Canada investigating medical cannabis as a potential substitute for opioids for chronic pain patients. Dr. Kumar is the Chairman & Chief Scientific Officer of CERESLabs Advisory Board, an established group of Wall Street executives to key health leaders / scientific professionals dedicated to becoming the global leader in analytical cannabis testing.
Dr. Kumar is currently the Scientific Advisor for Addis Ababa University, School of Pharmacy (SoP) in Ethiopia. In this role, Dr. Kumar facilitates advancements in graduate student education, promotes the interest of the SoP, and develops relationships between the SoP and the private sector.
In addition, Dr. Kumar previously served as Chief Scientific Officer for PharmaCielo Ltd., a Canadian company with operations in Colombia, South America. Dr. Kumar was responsible for the company’s R&D, global business product development strategy, and Phase I development of a state-of-the-art bioprocessing plant. He was previously the Chair of PharmaCielo’s Research Advisory Board and worked closely with the Medical Advisory Board, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, to coordinate clinical programs for cannabinoid-based therapeutics.
Dr. Kumar previously served as a Scientific Advisor to Revive Therapeutics, a Canadian Pharmaceutical company, advancing R & D of novel plant-based research initiatives, with an initial focus on cannabinoids and the liver. Dr. Kumar managed public-private partnerships with academic institutions and commercialization / licensing of drug-delivery technologies.
He has received numerous honors and awards including Best Oral Presentation from the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) Conference in Vancouver and fellowships from Drug Discovery and Target in Boston and Integrated Programs in Biomedical Sciences (IPIBS) as well as travel awards from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and University of Louisville School of Medicine for his presentations in the U.S., Canada, Italy, and Germany.
Dr. Kumar has been published in numerous scientific journals including the European Journal of Pharmacology, Pharmacology and Physiology, Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science and Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications.