It has now been three years since Parliament unanimously passed legislation to enable the medical cannabis industry in New Zealand.
Since foreign products are limited and expensive, kiwi patients will finally have legal access to high-quality, affordable local produce.
After finalizing a myriad of industry regulations, the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Agency’s plan went into effect in April 2020.
Yes, it was a complicated process and a long wait for patients. However, when it comes to pharmaceutical standards and healthcare for individuals, it has been critical that the Ministry of Health implement and oversee a strict regulatory regime, says Carmen Duran, CEO of Helios Therapeutics.
“Last year, concerns were raised that patients were on the verge of turning away. This is because under the New Zealand medical cannabis scheme, most external products no longer meet the new minimum standards.”
As of October 1, doctors can no longer prescribe those imported products. However, as of October 4, the Medicinal Cannabis Agency announced that two domestic producers had been verified. Finally, locally manufactured products were made available.
This year, Carmen says, patients will see more cost-effective local products.
Helios became the first New Zealand medical cannabis company to obtain a GMP license to manufacture pharmaceuticals in July. Subsequently, Rua Bioscience obtained a GMP license with a recently verified product for release in 2022, and other companies will follow.
“Some people may have a rudimentary picture of how cannabis products are manufactured. Indeed, a successful cultivation and manufacturing facility relies on a team with international experience. Compliance with some of the world’s highest quality standards requires in-depth pharmaceutical expertise.
“We put our faith in science and standards – both of which will give New Zealand a competitive advantage.
“As the old saying goes, quality not quantity. The place where our country’s newest industry will succeed is in research and development and introducing new and innovative products that are more effective and safer.”
Carmen Doran, CEO of Helios Therapeutics.
New Zealand has achieved a notable segment in the international wine market, says Carmen, who is also a board member of the New Zealand Medical Cannabis Council, through smart innovation and collaboration, and there’s no reason New Zealand can’t do the same with medical cannabis. .
“The news that Puro NZ has obtained BioGro Organic status for its extensive outdoor cultivation only adds an advantage.
“After the pandemic, we need Sunrise industries to succeed and raise our national export revenue. With the global cannabis market expected to grow from $18.7 billion in 2020 to $61.3 billion in 2025, even a small piece of this pie is worth getting. It will mean more business. And more jobs here at home.
“The priority right now is kiwi patients. After all, they and their advocates have fought long and hard for better access to these natural medicines.”
Affordability is beginning to materialize, Carmen says, but better access also means more doctors are willing to prescribe medication.
As it stands, Carmen says every GP in New Zealand can prescribe medicinal cannabis for any condition. However, as recent patient stories in the media suggest, many still lack the knowledge or confidence to do so.
“With our physicians effectively gatekeepers, educating prescribers is a key component of reaching patients. Indeed, surveys show that physicians themselves are the first to recognize the need for better information on medical cannabis and what and how it can be effectively treated.
“The good news for New Zealand patients is that many healthcare professionals are now really curious and actively educating themselves. We know this not only through the encouragement of prescription data, but through enrollment in educational resources and events.
“Two good examples are MCInfo and MedCan. More than 1,300 doctors and pharmacists are now registered with MCinfo – an online medical cannabis information service for both prescribers and patients from Kiwi. The MedCan Summit 2022 in February in Auckland welcomed many more registrations from physicians than the inaugural industry top in 2020.”