Canadian scientists finally making world's first medical weed index, for physicians and patients

Canadian scientists finally making world's first medical weed index, for physicians and patients

2,000 lucky Canadians are about to give cannabis credibility

VicesAugust 13, 2020 By Will Brendza

Unlike here in the US, in Canada weed is legal at a federal level, which has opened the doors for legitimate scientific cannabis research. Science that isn’t allowed to be done in the US because of the plant’s status as a schedule I substance; science that would help to standardize this drug so people can reliably use it to treat medical conditions.

Science that could finally destigmatize this plant, and legitimize it in the eyes of the medical world.

One such Canadian study is being led by Dr. Hance Clarke the director of pain services at Toronto General hospital and a recognized leader in opioid abuse education in Canada. He and his team at UHN are running the first-ever Medical Cannabis Real-World Evidence (MC-RWE) clinical trial. 2,000 lucky Canadian subjects will have the opportunity to select and sample THC products from an online portal, all of which are genetically tested and monitored from seed to sale.

The end goal? To create a national repository for medicinal cannabis. A catalogue of cannabis products, explaining the exact THC content of each, the reported immediate effects, lasting effects, onset times, potency and more. That way, should a doctor prescribe a THC product medicinally, or a patient seek one out, they’ll know they’re getting the same thing every time.

“Patients can get very frustrated as they might find something that works for a period of time, then they go back to get the product the next time, and they're not seeing the same effect,” Clarke explains. “We don't tolerate that type of variability in any type of pharmaceutical product.”

That variability is fine when cannabis is being used recreationally, Clarke adds — but when it’s being used as a medicine to treat serious health problems like epilepsy, depression, insomnia or chronic pain, that’s a problem. Patients need to know that their medicine is reliable.

“How do you drive this, so physicians have some confidence about products?” asks Clarke. “Well, you've got to convince them that what they order, they can get the next time if they see a benefit. That this is a product they can continue to use because it is validated, tested, reliable.”

In order to do that, Clarke is building the Canadian repository of medical cannabis products, with this clinical trial. So far, twelve Canadian cannabis companies have stepped up to offer their products for third party analytic testing and use. The online portal which uses blockchain technology and which will act as the cannabis “catalogue” itself, was created by Canadian retail pharmacy chain, Shoppers Drug Mart.

“Medical Cannabis by Shoppers is best placed to offer Canadians the reassurance of medical products that have been tested and validated," Ken Weisbrod, vice president of Shoppers Drug Mart said in a press release about MC-RWE. "Our development of a blockchain secured initiative, with TruTrace Technologies Inc., has now been integrated into an operational portal that will provide products with an immutable digital identity, that can capture everything from detailed chemistry down to its DNA."

Anyone interested in participating in Clarke’s clinical trial, can apply online. So far, Clarke says, they’ve only got around 50 subjects (leaving only 1,950 spots left to fill!). All you need to qualify, is any issue with chronic pain, sleeplessness, anxiety or depression.

“As long as you're dealing with one of those symptoms, you can be enrolled,” says Clarke.

Then, subjects will order their preferred products from the Shopper’s portal — from dried flower to oil extracts, edibles and topical preparations. They will then use those genetically tested products, and closely track changes in their own symptoms over the course of six months. Researchers will monitor patient’s progress, but will not interfere with the experiment.

By the end of the first six months, they hope to have collected enough data on these medical cannabis products to publish their national repository. Then, any time a physician wants to look up a cannabis product, they can log onto the portal and for any particular one, they’ll see the user’s comments about the terpenes and flavor profiles, as well as the top five cannabinoids and a consistency rating for each.

Which, Clarke hopes will inspire more cannabis producers to jump onboard.

“As a as a licensed producer, if you want this type of medical credibility, you're going to certainly want to consider being part of the platform,” he says.

The benefits of MC-RWE are threefold: Not only will this clinical trial help to standardize cannabis as a medicine, but it will offer physicians a legitimate, scientifically tested catalogue of possible prescription options, and hopefully it will help to dissolve some of the stigma around cannabis too. When doctors and physicians can see that these products are backed up by a clinical trial like this one, it standardizes and normalizes the substance in the medical world’s eyes.

If you’re Canadian, and you’re interested in participating in this trial (and using a lot of weed products), apply to enroll on their website. For science!