Marlboro maker prepares medical ‘cannabis inhaler’ with UK pharmaceutical company

Philip Morris, the company behind Marlboro cigarettes, is plotting a major breakthrough in the cannabis business with the inhaler maker it bought for £1billion in a much-criticised takeover last year.

The world’s biggest tobacco seller wants to develop “cannabinoid products that help people take charge of their well-being” following its purchase of Vectura, a pharmaceutical company that makes drugs to fight diseases caused by by smoking for the NHS.

The couple, along with Danish company Fertin Pharma, also want to deploy medical cannabis to treat heart attacks and chronic pain.

Philip Morris’ £1.2bn acquisition of Chippenham-based Vectura last year sparked outrage from anti-tobacco campaigners.

In response to criticism and threats of expulsion of Vectura from medical research groups, Philip Morris pledged to run the pharmaceutical business separately from its tobacco business.

But marketing material released last week said: “Vectura Fertin Pharma brings together Vectura’s expertise in inhalation, Fertin Pharma’s leadership in oral and intra-oral delivery systems, and the preclinical expertise of Philip Morris International as well as its global reach and scale.

Deborah Arnott, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said: “Last August, PMI [Philip Morris International] publicly committed “to operate Vectura as a stand-alone business unit.”

“Less than nine months later, Vectura and PMI are closely linked in a joint venture.”

A spokesperson for Philip Morris said: ‘PMI has created a stand-alone wellness and healthcare business unit Vectura Fertin Pharma which includes recent acquisitions. Vectura and Fertin will now operate as wholly owned subsidiaries of Vectura Fertin Pharma and will retain their own management teams.

“Vectura Fertin Pharma does not intend to roll out a recreational cannabis product.”

It comes after Will Downie and Paul Fry stepped down from their respective roles as chief executive and chief financial officer of Vectura last week after the deal was completed.

Jorge Insuasty, director of life sciences at Philip Morris, praised the two executives for transforming Vectura “into a leading inhaled therapeutics company.”

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