Dr. Hance Clarke
Medical Director, Pain Research Unit, Toronto General Hospital
Chairman and CEO, Scientus Pharma
Cannabis oil, which is the resin extracted from cannabis plants infused with a carrier oil, has shown benefit as a pain management therapy and promise in the treatment of many health conditions, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, anxiety, and Tourette’s.
“As a health care practitioner, it’s very challenging to help a patient navigate a product if you yourself are unsure of the potency.”Dr. Hance Clarke
In comparison to other intake methods, such as smoking or vaporizing, cannabis oil —which can be administered under the tongue, in a pill format, or incorporated into various delivery systems — has the potential to provide patients and doctors with more precise dosing and an alternative to smoking.
However, the methods of extraction and manufacturing of cannabinoid-based medicinal oils are directly related to that medicine’s potency and effectiveness, according to Dr. Hance Clarke, Medical Director of the Pain Research Unit at Toronto General Hospital. He believes that’s something both doctors and patients need to be aware of.
Cannabinoid-based meds as unique as the patient
“Dosing and reliability are extremely important when it comes to cannabinoid products as they interact directly with the central nervous system,” says Dr. Clarke. “As a health care practitioner, it’s very challenging to help a patient navigate a product if you yourself are unsure of the potency.”
In order for cannabis oil to be effective as a medicine, the THC and CBD cannabinoids need to be extracted from the cannabis plant and activated through a process known as decarboxylation, which is a chemical process that activates the cannabis’ medical ingredients through heat.
When it comes to the decarboxylation of cannabis used in various oil products, manufacturers currently use a variety of extraction methods — the vast majority of which result in inconsistent levels of decarboxylation, which affects potency, making it extremely difficult for doctors to prescribe an accurate and consistent dosage. If the dosage is too low, the patient does not receive the expected benefit from the medicine. If the dosage is too high, particularly when it comes to THC-heavy oils, patients can experience adverse psychoactive effects.
“One of the issues with non-smokable forms of cannabis is that most licensed producers don’t have scalable technology that can create consistent yields,” says Dr. Clarke. “In trying to achieve true pharmaceutical consistency that the Canadian public is used to, decarboxylation is the key for both efficacy and scalability.”
The method is the message
In order for cannabis oil to achieve the consistency level of manufactured pharmaceuticals, the level of variability between batches must be brought into pharmaceutically-acceptable tolerance ranges. Scientus Pharma — a next generation R&D biopharmaceutical firm based in Toronto and licensed through HydRx Farms Ltd. — has succeeded in doing exactly that.
“Medical cannabis has been around for along time, but producing consistent potency for accurate dosing has to be the starting point for it to be delivered as a reliable therapy,” says Har Grover,Executive Chairman and CEO at Scientus Pharma. “Without a standardized dosing form, it’s not a true pharmaceutical product and it carries an increased risk of compromising patient safety.”
That’s why Scientus Pharma spent four years and millions of dollars developing a proprietary method for the extraction and activation of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) from natural cannabis plant materials. The process is known as microwave-assisted extraction, and Scientus Pharma uses this method to qualify cannabis resin as an API-like material while providing the chemical and biological quality control appropriate for pharmaceutical-grade product lines. The result is a true, pharmaceutical-grade intermediary resin that provides patients with accurate, consistent dosing.
Without this foundational technology as a platform, the industry will be challenged to conduct clinical trials or develop effective cannabinoid-based therapies.
“Each cannabis extraction technology has a different yield,” says Dr. Clarke. “But when it comes to microwave extraction technology, as patented by Scientus Pharma, the laboratory testing of the yields has consistently demonstrated 99 to 100 percent decarboxylation.”
When patients take medications like ibuprofen, they expect them to work the same way each time. Thanks to microwave-assisted extraction, patients sourcing medicinal cannabis oils from Scientus Pharma will also receive a predictable and consistent dose — the cornerstone of any effective treatment.