Cannabis stocks took another step toward Wall Street respectability today, as august JPMorgan launched coverage of GW Pharmaceuticals with an Outperform rating. The bank raised $345 million for the drug developer in an October stock offering, and believes that GW Pharmaceutical’s cannabis-derived drug Epidiolex could surpass $1 billion in annual sales among epilepsy patients by 2023.
Analyst Cory Kasimov set a $134 price target for the U.K.-based company’s American depositary shares (ticker: GWPH), and investors have moved the stock up about 5% in Wednesday trading, to $102.25. GW has about a dozen Buy recommendations on the Street, but most have come from smaller brokers and cannabis boutiques.
Among the drivers of cannabis legalization around the world are unproven medical claims about the drug’s effectiveness for treating illnesses ranging from cancer to schizophrenia. GW has set an example that others will hopefully follow by testing Epidiolex in proper clinical trials, like the two reported in the New England Journal of Medicine by NYU Langone School of Medicine neurologist Orrin Devinsky.
After those rigorous trials showed the drug’s effectiveness at reducing seizures among children suffering from congenital epilepsies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration quickly approved Epidiolex for those indications.
Kasimov argues that doctors will prescribe GW Pharma’s product to epilepsy patients beyond those in first two FDA-approved indications—turning Epidiolex into a blockbuster seller. Even so, he doesn’t foresee profits for GW until the fiscal year ending September 2022, when he predicts it will earn 46 cents a share, followed by 96 cents in fiscal 2023.