Medicinal cannabis has ‘endless potential’ beyond CBD and THC, pharmacist says
You’ve probably heard of CBD and THC, but cannabis contains dozens of additional compounds that could be harnessed to treat different conditions.
This is the view of James Yu, a pharmacist from Hamilton who completed a postgraduate dissertation in the region.
He believes we are just beginning to tap into the “endless possibilities” of medicinal cannabis.
And one molecular pharmacologist agrees that single phytocannabinoid drugs are possible, but they would be pharmaceutical grade, not crude plant products.
TOM LEE / STUFF
Eqalis is a medical cannabis start-up based in the Bay of Plenty. Its goal is to bring medicinal cannabis to the market in an affordable manner.
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Yu is the responsible pharmacist and co-owner of Ngā Hua Pharmacy, which is part of Te Kōhao Health, and estimates that he has now distributed medicinal cannabis to over 600 patients.
“In the future, I am quite confident that, as science and technology allows us, we will be able to process a lot of things with medicinal cannabis. And all the individual cannabinoids too, ”he said.
His interest started when he was approached about a patient, saw a benefit, decided “there is something to this” and began to attend all the education sessions he had. could.
In 2020, he completed TUE’s Introductory Medicinal Cannabis Postgraduate Certificate, which he says has helped him share his knowledge with other pharmacists, doctors who wish to be guided and patients.
The most talked about phytocannabinoids are CBD, or cannabidiol, and THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol – the main psychoactive ingredient.
But there are dozens more, Yu said, and science is starting to show potential therapeutic roles, for example for sleep or seizure control.
“It is a plant with infinite potential.”
And we may be able to isolate compounds and create products with certain ratios suitable for certain conditions – something Yu sees as the future of medicinal cannabis.
“There is a science in this. These are not the people who just think that cannabis or weed is a cure-all.
Medsafe figures at the start of 2021 indicate a growing supply of products containing cannabidiol, the Department of Health said.
On average, nearly 1,790 product packs were reported sold each month in 2020.
Some believe cannabis is alien to humans or evil, Yu said, but the human body produces its own cannabinoids.
They interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which he describes as a complex messaging or signaling system.
Natural products are the starting point for many medicines, said Michelle Glass, a professor at the University of Otago. Treatments based on a single phytocannabinoid are therefore possible.
But these are unlikely to be raw plant products due to consistency and quality requirements, said Glass, who heads the department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Otago.
Groups such as the Lambert Initiative in Sydney are already researching minor phytocannabinoids.
Their levels in the plant are too low to have an effect, but they could be developed as a drug, said Glass, which has been recognized by the International Cannabinoid Research Society.
Cannabis is a challenge because with so many elements it can be difficult to figure out which ones produce the desired effect, she said.
As a molecular pharmacologist, Glass loves evidence and clinical studies, and says they’re starting to make their way into medicinal cannabis.
Children with epilepsy have seen clear positive effects after using CBD, for example.
But Glass notes that this was a purified pharmaceutical grade product, not raw plant material.
Many studies are small and involve different medicinal cannabis products, making it impossible to generalize the results.
The power of clinical studies comes from the numbers, and having enough people involved to draw a solid conclusion – but with such a range of products being used, it’s hard to do that, Glass said.
For Yu, it’s about what he hears from the patients he was dispensed with, including a man in the ’90s who was able to play golf after taking CBD.
“Being able to give a 91-year-old that freedom not to be in pain and therefore be able to play golf – that kind of feedback is really what motivates me to continue in this field,” said Yu.
Yu uses medicinal cannabis for everything from controlling seizures and chronic pain to nausea from chemotherapy treatments and preventing migraines.
But he’s “not going to put fairy dust on everything” and said about 10 to 15 percent of patients felt they wasted their money because the prescription had no effect.
TUE’s introduction to medicinal cannabis was first offered in 2020 and 69 people were successful, according to a statement.
Students’ backgrounds are varied and include nurses and general practitioners, herbalists and entrepreneurs, said associate professor Ali Seyfoddin, responsible for the course.
AUT hopes to offer more specialized articles in the future, he said.