In the weed world, Big Pharma is typically seen as an enemy. It’s the industry that pushed opioids over a potentially safer solution to chronic pain. It’s the industry that has scored Schedule II and III status for synthetic THC, while naturally occurring THC in cannabis plants remain in Schedule I. It’s the industry that has poured money into lobbying againstmarijuana legalization efforts, while simultaneously selling the aforementioned synthetic THC.
But New York medical marijuana company PharmaCannis is taking techniques from pharmaceutical drug development and applying them to the plant. It’s using something known as the self-emulsifying drug delivery system to produce their PharmaCannis Capsules, increasing the efficacy of its plant-derived medical marijuana products. Well-known in the biotech world, the company says it’s the first time that the technique has been applied to cannabis.
Many patients and their doctors are more at ease with a product like the capsules, said Chris Diorio, Director of Research and Development at PharmaCannis. And on top of that, using this method of drug formulation helps achieve more precise dosing – a tricky undertaking when it comes to medical cannabis.
“Smoking it is the traditional drug delivery vehicle,” he said. “But there’s a whole abundance of other methods that could potentially do a better job in a more precise manner.”
The capsules prevent this from happening, essentially allowing the cannabinoids to bypass the liver and get absorbed directly in the intestines. Diorio reckons that this could increase absorption by five- or sixfold.
“When you look at any compound that is fat-soluble, this technology makes sense because it provides… [THC] the ability to be absorbed at a much higher rate,” said Diorio.
In theory, this means that such a capsule will provide a greater, more long-lasting effect for the patient. While this is the company’s goal in developing such a product, Diorio emphasizes that it’s hard to make that claim without the ability to run a clinical trial using it. Still, patient feedback so far has been “very favorable.”
It’s also beneficial in highly regulated medical marijuana markets. New York’s program restricts edible products to 10 mg per dose. By avoiding the first-pass effect, the capsules are arguably more potent – even while adhering to the 10 mg limit.
As medical marijuana companies continue to develop new products under restrictive regulations, it makes sense that we’ll see more pharmaceutical techniques applied to the plant-based medicine.
MAPS, the non-profit conducting the first FDA-approved whole-plant clinical trial, believes that the agency could be open to approving a plant as a medicine. But Diorio thinks that the plant will go on its own path, separate from cannabinoid medicines that the FDA is willing to approve. “[They’ll] diverge into two directions, where you have plant-based medicine going one route and the purified plant components going [the FDA] route,” he said. “I don’t see them coming back together.”
“I don’t want to ruin the plant,” said Diorio. “I just want to make it better for those who use it to treat their ailments.”