The legalization of medical cannabis in Canada and jurisdictions within the Unites States and abroad has returned a once taboo, illegal recreational product back to its role as a medicinal agent, which can be traced back to ancient Chinese practice as early as 2700 BC. While the current market is generally delineated as “Recreational” or “Medicinal” users, in many jurisdictions and use cases, the medicinal is an access point for the recreational user.
In Canada, where there is nationwide legalization of medical cannabis, only 5% of clinicians are prescribing its use for patients. Among the factors that would give pause to the remaining 95% of clinicians is a dearth of actionable data, evidence-based guidelines and training in prescribing practices; in general, clinicians require the same degree of comfort in prescribing medical cannabis as they would a traditional pharmaceutical.
Regarding the relief of medical conditions, cannabis does appear to have many parallels with incumbent pharmaceutical products and may have the necessary therapeutic effect that clinicians and patients are seeking. However, the decision support necessary to make an educated therapeutic prescription is lacking. To do so, clinicians need a basis of data consistent with what they are accustomed to with traditional pharmaceuticals. Namely, the delineation of products for the relief of symptoms or illnesses is directly related to the following factors:
- Risk of adverse effects
- Specificity of use
- Dosage control
As such, for traditional pharmaceuticals, significant research and development and data has been gathered to determine the impact of these factors. The costs and benefits of which have a direct effect on the underlying pricing and profit margins for prescription drugs. Due to long-standing recreational use of Cannabis, the apparent mitigation of risk has been a significant factor in the ascent of medical cannabis – providing affordable relief at reasonable costs to the patient. For clinicians, however, specificity of use and dosage control are equally important.
Clinicians prescribe drugs to their patients based on the diagnosis of illness and are trained to weigh the alternative options of prescription on a basis of evidence and disclosure. The National Academy of Sciences January 2017 paper The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research went on to conclude that “cannabis has both therapeutic value and public health risks” and that there is a need for significant additional research data to be acquired to “a) address research gaps b) improve research quality c) improve surveillance capacity d) address research barriers.”
Once the playing field of disclosure to clinicians regarding risks, specificity and dosage control are equalized, medical cannabis can be considered by clinicians a pari passu alternative for their patients’ therapeutic needs.
Ehave is working with leading medical cannabis producers to address the research gaps and to provide clinicians the data they need. Medical cannabis producers are realizing that as the recreational market gains support legislatively, there is a need for differentiation to retain market share and profitability. Identifying strains and concentrations that have therapeutic effects of significance, obtaining relevant high quality data and presenting conclusions in a clinically consistent capacity to pharmaceutical products are the critical success factors that need to be addressed by the medical cannabis industry.
Our partnership with MedReleaf as the leading Medical Cannabis Licensed Producer in Canada is based on the principals discussed herein. The pathway to clinical benefits starts with good data that supports clinicians’ prescription process, and providing that quality, quantitative patient outcomes data is our vision.