While much of the news around the legalization of cannabis focused on the recreational market and the highs (and lows) of pot stocks, a medical company has been crunching the numbers and shifting through data to bring some much-needed clarity to the cannabis space.
“Our purpose is to make sense of medicine, so on the prescription drug side we put together a committee of experts and we reviewed evidence (to) build … a list that provides advice and empowers people to make smart drug choices,” said Helen Stevenson, chief executive and founder of Reformulary Group.
Once medical cannabis started to gain momentum, the firm decided to treat it like the drugs it reviewed in the past. A team of four independent experts spent 10 months reviewing the available evidence to create a platform that’s “easily accessible to patients and really empowers them to make sense of the medical cannabis market.”
The result? The Cannabis Standard, an online tool that suggests the type of medical cannabis best suited for a patient’s condition by running their symptoms through an algorithm that reviews all the available data.
If the person is a good fit for medical cannabis, the platform will take them through the product types that make most sense, providing information around dosing, strains and product types.
“It’s pre-screening and then equipping them with a document to take to their doctor to have that conversation,” said Stevenson.
The standard is also meant to help employers ensure they’re using their benefit plans wisely by paying for medical cannabis when there’s evidence that it can, in fact, help employees manage their illness’ symptoms.
“(Medical cannabis) does not work for everybody, and according to our experts, it shouldn’t actually be used first,” Stevenson said. “In every case, there’s a drug as the first option or the second option before you try medical cannabis. There’s misunderstanding about (its) place in medicine.”
Reformulary plans to take its categorizing efforts a step further with a second tool called Cannabis Standard Index, which will be launched by the end of 2019. That index will include several categories based on concentrations of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) or specific strains, so that patients can compare – and substitute – offerings from different producers. It will also be adapted to incorporate the new formats, like edibles and creams, which are set to enter the market at the end of 2019.
That means that if a patient faces a shortage of, for instance, a balanced oil from producer A, they will be able to look it up in the index and figure out what would be a comparable product from producer B.
“In the drug world, we know what drugs are substitutable for others … we know that a generic version of the drug is substitutable for the brand; that doesn’t exist to date in the medical cannabis space,” said Stevenson.
“This is, we think, sorely missing in the industry and we want to take that one step further eventually and, on clinical evidence basis, really look at perhaps rating in the future.”