Article by Kevin Donovan, The Toronto Star
“It makes sense,” Barry Sherman said to the executives around the boardroom table. “Let’s do it.”
The project to develop a slow-release medical marijuana pill was on. Just a year before his murder, Sherman gave the green light on what scientists at his generic drug firm, Apotex, and marijuana firm CannTrust call the “pharmaceuticalization of marijuana.” People suffering from chronic pain, depression, anxiety, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder and other afflictions might one day benefit, say investors in the project.
“I think Barry decided Apotex better get in on the ground level,” said Aubrey Dan, a businessman who is involved in the project, but was once a Sherman rival in the generic drug world. “Barry was a true entrepreneur. He has always been a risk taker.”
Health Canada approval is estimated to be two years away, but if it comes, the pills would be a disrupter in the Big Pharma brand-name drug world, and for Sherman’s own generic firm, providing an alternative to highly addictive opioids and other pharmaceuticals. People who worked with the late Sherman say the so-called “pot pill” will be one of his greatest legacies.
“Barry went away and did his homework,” recalled Eric Paul, CEO of CannTrust. “Then everybody got on board.”
In the year before his murder in December, the 75-year-old billionaire had a lot on his plate. The potentially revolutionary marijuana pill was one project; a major investment in a Toronto condominium tower was another. There were ongoing legal battles with his cousins who alleged that he owed them a stake in his company (they eventually lost in court), and he was still running Apotex, which he founded in the early 1970s.
Sherman showed no signs of slowing down and people close to him say the marijuana pill is a good example of his desire to take on new projects. As of now, medical marijuana is either smoked or ingested as an oil or an edible, often with uneven results. The concept Sherman threw his expertise behind was to standardize different levels of doses in pill form, using both the psychoactive and non-psychoactive elements of marijuana.