A panel, titled Industry Insights, took place as part of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week. It aimed to connect professionals, healthcare providers and patients to discuss the issues surrounding the UK cannabis industry.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week ran from the 1 – 7 November with a series of panel discussions. Each panel combined patients with doctors, industry professionals and healthcare practitioners to discuss some of the key issues surrounding medical cannabis access.
In the panel led by Cannabis Health managing editor, Sarah Sinclair, patients highlighted the need for the cannabis industry to recognise their part to play in it. They stressed that if there were no patients then there would be no industry. The patients were adamant that industry professionals must engage with patients from the start and that, so far, not enough has been done to work with them.
Sarah was joined by Alisia Ratliff the CEO of Victus Capital Ventures, Dr Callie Seaman the director and formulation chemist at Aqualabs, Eric Bystrom the CEO of Cellen and Leva Clinics, Jack Pierce who is a patient at Patient-Led Engagement for Access (PLEA), Mike Breeze the Managing Director of Pure Isolation Ltd and Pious who is also on the Management Committee at PLEA.
Patient led industry
Dr Callie Seaman stated that communication needs happen between the industry and patients but there is a fine line between listening and exploitation.
“Getting patient groups and communicating with them is the biggest way. A lot of patients feel like they are not listened to. It’s about making sure that they are being listened to and feeling that they are not being exploited for the information,” she said.
“It’s about being compassionate towards them as well. I feel like that has to be the start of it. Transparency is going to be a really important factor in this as patients feel there is a lack of it and that they don’t get the information they want. They don’t get information about how the plant is grown, how it’s processed or its age. Transparency is the best way to drive this forward.”
Pious, who is a medical cannabis patient, agreed with Dr Seaman. He would like to see the industry respect the knowledge that cannabis parents have.
“It’s about valuing the patient. A lot of patients have prior experience with using cannabis so it’s about respecting that knowledge. Some have experience of growing, consuming, what they like or just consuming. A lot of patients are already aware of what strains work for them, what products they like and what they want out of it.”
He added: “It can be very traumatic for patients to share or attend events like this to share deeply personal information. It’s great to spread awareness and get some valuable information but if companies or organisations are using patients on their panels then there should be remuneration as this is a multi-million-pound industry. It ultimately goes back to, without patients, especially in the UK then there wouldn’t be an industry.”
Lack of diversity for patients
The patients also highlighted that there was a lack of product diversity within the UK market. The limited amount of products within the market also meant there were issues with quality, cost and consistency.
Pious said: “Saying something is GMP certified doesn’t necessarily equate to a quality product. It ties back into the earlier point of valuing patients and their knowledge. In one sense, the government doesn’t have to worry about prescription products going to the market because no one is going to consume that product.
“If you are telling patients that is quality flower, yet half of it is sugar leaves or there are still leaves attached, or its burned or there are seeds, then that’s not quality flower. I think it’s insulting and it’s damaging to the industry.”
He continued: “We are such a small group of patients, and we talk. There are known platforms where you can find out what to avoid or what product is good. If the industry actually talks to patients then you can ask what we expect out of our flower. It’s really simple things that could be easily addressed.”
The patients stressed again that honest conversation is key when it comes to fixing consistent quality issues. It may also stop the flow of patients heading back to the illegal market due to the quality of cannabis on offer.
Cost for Patients
The cost of prescriptions and the lower quality flower was also raised.
“We’re paying a lot of money for our prescription as it’s not cheap. It’s really expensive. It’s good for the industry to recognise that in the UK, we have the national health service which is free. If you are operating in private industry and are not going above and beyond the NHS then you are going to be in for a shock when your patients are no longer buying your product,” Pious said.
Jack added that reaching the higher quality of cannabis can often be out of reach for patients due to cost. He also stressed that there should be a greater emphasis on terpenes.
“Another thing with cost and quality as a patient is that to reach the higher qualities, which are still mid-tier, they are significantly expensive. They are costing £120 for 10 grammes and are considered the higher quality cannabis for the legal market,” Jack added.
Alisia Ratliff the CEO of Victus Capital Ventures offered her point of view which is not only from the industry perspective but as a patient too. Originally from Florida in the US, she has experience in the legal markets in the US as well as Jersey in the UK.
“I’m a patient here in Jersey and getting access to flower was just so difficult. It would take weeks for my prescription to be filled but then the quality of the flower is really subpar. I came from the states where I had been consuming cannabis for the last four years and something that has been helpful for my chronic pain has been variety.”
She explained: “Sometimes, flower doesn’t work for me so I need a vape cartridge or I might need edibles or oil. That’s one of the things that I find daunting here is that you don’t have that diversification of products.”
Alisia highlighted that it’s the same producers when it comes time to choose a product that is at odds with the UK being the largest producer of cannabis. She believes the UK will struggle to diversify the portfolio of products so that they can choose the method that works well for their aliment.
“It’s weird when the UK and GW Pharma are the largest exporters of medical cannabis but it’s not coming directly into your community. That rings all kinds of pound signs in that it is not focused on what patients need.”
Patients and audience poll
Sarah raised the results of a poll that had been running during the panel discussion. The audience members were asked to vote for what was most important to them.
The results revealed that 77 per cent of attendees felt product quality was the most important aspect of the medical cannabis industry while a further 46 per cent said patient engagement. A further 38 per cent chose ethical practice while just 23 per cent chose corporate responsibility.
Entry level into the industry
The industry professionals said that the industry can be difficult to enter due to barriers with cost, legislation hurdles and the length of time it takes to get products approved. Dr Callie Seaman offered her experiences of countries like Denmark and how it compares to the UK.
“In having worked with countries like Denmark, I think the licensing process needs to be made a lot shorter. It takes far too long in this country to obtain a cultivation license. What happens in this country is that a facility needs to be built before the license is granted which makes it impossible for the everyday person to be able to even enter the market.”
She suggested that there is experience and expertise to be found in the legacy market. “The legacy market has got some amazing people within it who have got far more experience than anyone who is involved in the industry at this point. They are being ignored at the moment.”
New agreement to fund Phase II trials for cannabis glaucoma treatment
Emerald Health Therapeutics has signed an agreement with Skye Bioscience.
A new agreement between Emerald Health Therapeutics and Skye Bioscience will enable Phase II studies exploring the use of Skye’s proprietary synthetic cannabinoid-derivative therapeutic initially targeting glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the globe’s leading cause of irreversible blindness – affecting nearly 80 million people across the globe – and has no cure.
Skye Bioscience‘s lead programme, SBI-100 Ophthalmic Emulsion, is focused on treating glaucoma. SBI-100 OE is designed to improve the ocular solubility and permeability of a cannabinoid receptor-type 1 agonist.
So far, preclinical studies have demonstrated that topical application of the nanoemulsion results in enhanced therapeutic efficacy and duration of response, allowing for a potentially once-a-day application to the eye. The results showed superior lowering of intraocular pressure, a key risk factor in disease progression.
Under the new agreement, which would see Skye acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of Emerald in a share-for-share-transaction, Skye expects to have funding for a Phase II study which is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2022, following a Phase I study beginning in the second quarter of 2022.
Chair of the Skye’s special committee and president, CEO and board member of Invectys, Inc., Praveen Tyle, Ph.D., commented: “Skye’s proposed acquisition of Emerald stands to strengthen its balance sheet and ability to advance its well-positioned technology and development platform that has generated promising preclinical data in the past year and a half.
“Despite the constraints of Covid on all facets of the life science industry, Skye has completed the preclinical preparation necessary to launch its first-in-human study of its lead drug, SBI-100 OE, in the second quarter of 2022.
“We expect regulatory approval to start our Phase I study and begin enrolling patients shortly. The transaction with Emerald is expected to provide funding into 2023 and, importantly, for our planned Phase II study starting in the fourth quarter of 2022.
“The shortcomings of today’s glaucoma drugs are significant for patients. Today we are focused on clinically validating what could potentially be an advantageous new class of therapeutic drug for glaucoma.
“With this in mind, we are actively designing a Phase II efficacy study to deliver potentially meaningful data, yet optimised to minimise time and cost. We believe we can see preliminary data from this study in 2023, and the nature of this data could be transformational from a validation and value creation perspective.
“Securing the capital to achieve these goals is vital. We believe that acquiring Emerald and its cash and non-cash assets would provide a more favourable capital cost for our shareholders compared to other alternatives in light of current investment market conditions.
“In addition, Emerald possesses a research and development facility in the greater Vancouver area licensed to undertake cannabinoid-related research under applicable Canadian law, which could be beneficial to Skye as we continue to progress our R&D efforts.”
Chair of the board’s Special Committee of Emerald Health Therapeutics, Bobby Rai, commented: “We are excited to present this opportunity with Skye to our shareholders. Since announcing the strategic pivot of Emerald last November, we have been working to wind down our past operations, monetise our non-cash assets, and apply our capital to a new investment opportunity. We have searched for a company with differentiated positioning and a pedigree of expertise and experience. We believe we have found it in Skye Bioscience.
“Emerald has always recognised the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids based on our experience with the body’s endocannabinoid system and its modulating and balancing activities in the body. We also recognise that the goal to clinically and commercially capitalise on the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabinoid-derived drugs may benefit from advanced technology and drug products with mechanisms of action or formulations enhanced to realise effects superior to not only natural cannabinoids but to existing approved classes of drugs and those under development.
“The beauty of this situation is that the underlying cannabinoid that Skye is working with has previously been shown through prior third-party research to have promising potential. And Skye’s recent preclinical work has shown improved delivery of the underlying cannabinoid to the back of the eye and notable effects in reducing intraocular pressure, which is a key risk factor of glaucoma.
“Skye Bioscience has proprietary technology, R&D initiatives to expand its therapeutic capabilities, a strong focus on IP, along with a management team, board, and advisory board with many decades of experience in pharmaceutical drug development and clinical practice, notably in ophthalmology and in fundamental cannabinoid research. This company is uniquely positioned to capitalise on the substantially untapped opportunities represented by the intersection of cannabinoids with modern science and traditional drug development.
“We believe this is an excellent opportunity for Emerald shareholders to potentially benefit from a new class of cannabinoid-derivative drug candidates.”
Apollon Formularies purchases four patents from Aion Therapeutic
Apollon Formularies has announced the acquisition of four patents previously owned by AI Pharmaceuticals, covering a number of treatments for cancers and inflammation using cannabis and mushroom compositions.
Apollon Formularies plc, a UK based international pharmaceutical company has acquired intellectual property from AI Pharmaceuticals Ltd, a wholly-owned Jamaican subsidiary of Aion in what Apollon is calling a “win-win” for both companies. Under the terms of the Agreement, Apollon will acquire four patents and all associated supporting data including the pre-clinical testing results from BIOENSIS.
The patents include: ‘Compositions and Methods for Treatment of Cancers’, ‘Compositions and Methods for Treatment of Inflammation, ‘Methods for Treatment of Human Cancers using Mushroom Compositions’ and ‘Methods for Treatment of Human Cancers using Cannabis Compositions’.
In a statement, Stephen Barnhill, MD, Chairman and CEO of Apollon Formularies said: “This intellectual property acquisition is a win-win for both companies. Apollon’s Jamaican affiliate, Apollon Formularies Jamaica Limited, has Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) issued medical cannabis licenses for processing, retail therapeutic sales, and research and development which allows performing human clinical trials with approval of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and cultivation. Apollon’s CLA licenses also currently allow the export of these products from Jamaica to countries globally allowing legal import.
Dr. Barnhill is also the Executive Chairman of Aion and serves as a director and executive officer of AI Pharmaceuticals.
Apollon, which is trading on the Aquis Stock Exchange, has purchased the patents from Aion via a cash payment of £95,957.18 and the issuing of 4,348,679 ordinary shares in the company. These shares will be subject to a complete trading restriction for a period of six months from the date of the stock transfer. After the six month restriction period, twenty percent of such stock will become eligible for trading and an additional twenty percent will be tradable at the end of each following three-month period, with all trading restrictions being fully removed at the end of eighteen months.
In addition to the cash payment and Apollon shares, Apollon will pay to Aion a royalty fee of four percent of Net Revenues on all products produced and sold globally that are derived from or based on the purchased intellectual property assets. The royalty fee shall be due from Apollon on a quarterly basis after the first commercial product sales.
“Apollon has a state-of-the art, high volume processing and manufacturing facility in Jamaica allowing production of these products. Apollon intends to immediately make these medical cannabis and medicinal mushroom products available at Apollon’s International Cancer and Chronic Pain Institute in Kingston, Jamaica and at our CLA-licensed dispensary in Negril, Jamaica, as well as initiating human clinical trials to validate the successful results seen in the pre-clinical testing.”
AI Pharmaceuticals and Apollon Formularies Jamaica announced in May last year that the two companies had made arrangements for the testing of their respective formulations and products independently and jointly. BIOENSIS, an independent pre-clinical predictive pharmaceutical testing laboratory, previously evaluated the effect of mushroom and cannabis formulations on multiple cancer cell lines in 3D cell cultures.
New partnership aims to transform global phytomedicine sector
HempStreet and MGC Pharmaceuticals have teamed up to increase access to phytopharmaceutical medicines for patients.
India’s first medical cannabis “research to retail” venture, HempStreet, and Europe’s biopharma and phytomedicine specialist, MGC Pharmaceuticals, have entered into a partnership that will see the pair combine research and development as well as distribution strengths to improve quality of life.
UK-based MGC Pharma has been working on polyherbal formulations based on cannabis and other phytopharmaceuticals. Through this new partnership MGC Pharma will leverage HempStreet’s extensive distribution reach and key institutional partnerships to bring Indian patients access to its medicines.
The partnership will also help to accelerate HempStreet’s upcoming venture, the transdermal delivery technology for cannabinoids, to launch in markets beyond Asia with the help of MGC Pharma’s distribution network in Australia, UK, Brazil and Ireland.
Co-founder of HempStreet, Abhishek Mohan, commented: “We are very excited to work with Roby and the team at MGC Pharma, bringing cutting-edge, scientifically-validated phytopharmaceutical medicines to tackle mass ailments in India and beyond.
“In particular, CimetrA, which has shown a 100 per cent success rate in Phase II clinical trials in India, will be an important product just on account of the fact that an estimated 15 million individuals are experiencing some sort of post-Covid-19/Long-Covid symptoms.”
MGC Pharma has stated that CimetrA – made of artemisinin, curcumin, and boswellia serrata – is effective in arresting cytokine storms associated with Covid-19. There are currently over 15 million individuals, approximately 30 per cent of all Covid-19 recoverees in India, said to be experiencing some form of post- or long-Covid related symptoms.
Co-founder, MGC Pharma, Roby Zomer, added: “Entry into significant global markets such as India is paramount to MGC Pharma’s agenda, advancing phytomedicine adoption globally.
“India has a long-established and government-supported Ayurvedic healthcare system, and working with HempStreet to facilitate access to our proprietary phytomedicines such as CimetrA and CannEpil and the new formulations on the pipeline, is crucial to gaining a foothold in this market.”
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