Creating standardized medicine is the gold standard for the cannabis industry but the nature of the plant can make this difficult, attendees to Cannabis Europa heard.
Some panelists argued that attempts by the major pharmaceutical companies to patent drugs from the cannabis plant should be challenged. Others said that for cannabis medicine to achieve globally accepted standards there would need to be an involvement from the pharmaceutical giants to fund the research.
Dr Barbara Pacchetti, of U.K. company EMMAC Life Sciences, described cannabis as an ‘unconventional medicine’. “The aim is for standardized cannabis medicine, and this would be the peak of Everest. Doctors are not comfortable with anything else, but with cannabis we have the plant’s entourage effect and this leads to a lot of questions and grey areas in relation to variability.
“For pharma companies, isolates are the gold standard, but there is variability with cannabis due the to the different cannabinoids, plant strains, the terpenes and the flavonoids and this means we have to do more work to understand this entourage; the genetics.”
Speaking on day one of the the conference in a debate on ‘Cannabis-Based Medicines’ she said it would initially be difficult to bridge the gap left by a lack of research, due to the prohibition of cannabis over the last 60 years. And she added: “We are just the beginning to learn and to connect with regulators, the health authorities and this will allow us to make the right cannabis medicines available to the public.”
Dianna Gutierrez, of Spanish firm Linneo Health, agreed there was much research to be done. She said the company was looking at selecting different cannabis molecules and products to target different diseases. She added: “We have to change way we produce, grow and manufacture a medicine and we need the money; huge investment from funds to get the quality of drug we require.”
Aras Azadian, of Canadian company Avicanna, said physicians like to have straight-forward medicines they can rely on, and this is a challenge the cannabis industry can rise to.
“They depend on one or two, high-standard products. When prescribing it’s a case of taking it in stages – crawl, walk, run – but patients may see things differently and want different strains and flowers, for example. Patients have become accustomed to having the same level of consistency in their medicines, but the variability of the cannabis plant makes this difficult to achieve.
“Cannabis medicine needs to have the highest standards; Quality assurance, and standardization of cannabis medicine is necessary, achievable, and the responsibility of the people in this room.”
In a separate panel discussion on day two of the conference Prof Mike Barnes, chairman of the U.K. Medical Cannabis Clinicians’ Society argued that attempts to patent elements of the cannabis plant – something U.K. firm GW Pharmaceuticals has successfully achieved – is bad news for patients, as it increases the price of the drugs. He went on to say these patents should be challenged, when granted.
However, Dean Billington of Brains Bioceuticals argued that the patenting route to market for a drug – including cannabis drugs – is necessary to fund the research.