NZ medicinal cannabis sector deserves celebration not criticism

The latest Ministry of Health data on medicinal cannabis uptake paints a positive picture. This comes despite ongoing criticism on the availability of local products, price, and doctors’ willingness to prescribe.

Yes, challenges around access continue, but New Zealand’s newest industry is making good strides. Let’s not forget Parliament only legislated to enable a local medicinal cannabis industry three and a half years ago. The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme has been in effect for just over two years, or less than a year, if you take into consideration the transition period.

Local companies like Helius Therapeutics established themselves before even knowing the regulatory framework, let alone the manufacturing and product standards. In the end, New Zealand’s scheme oversees some of the highest quality standards in the world which is great for patients, doctors, and our ability to break into key export markets.

However, unlike approved synthetic drugs which are marketed on billboards and on television – often with happy senior citizens on bikes – medicinal cannabis products can’t be promoted due to regulations. This is despite meeting strict manufacturing and quality standards ensuring consistency and confidence that the products are what they say they are.

In the coming years after extensive clinical trials, medicinal cannabis will achieve Medsafe registration. Products, and what health conditions will benefit, can then be publicly promoted. In the meantime, the 1981 Medicines Act prohibits all forms of advertising. While the restriction is logical, it unfortunately means most Kiwis remain unaware that local products are now readily available nationwide.

The good news is New Zealand’s healthcare professionals are increasingly engaged about this new frontier of healthcare. Their curiosity is being partly driven by more and more patient enquiries.

In only a few short years the concept of medicinal cannabis has become very mainstream for Kiwi patients and their families – young and old. Grandma and Grandad are coming back from the golf club talking about how someone has substantially reduced the number of pills they’re taking thanks to medicinal cannabis. Even more powerful is the rapidly growing global movement towards plant-based natural therapeutics.

Don Budge of MCinfo – a dedicated local medicinal cannabis information service – reported the strongest interest yet in MCinfo’s stand at the recent General Practice Continuing Medical Education conference (GP CME) in Rotorua. That is really heartening.

Every New Zealand GP can prescribe medicinal cannabis to any patient for any health condition, with doctor education and confidence key to patients successfully accessing the products.

Unlike Australia, there are no named health conditions patients must have, nor must doctors seek permission from higher authorities. Kiwi doctors can simply scribble on their prescription pad and off you go to the pharmacy, with more doctors also referring patients to specialist cannabis clinics.

However, doctors are not going to prescribe if they don’t know enough, and studies show many still don’t. That’s why as education sponsor to MCinfo, Helius is directing resources into upskilling interested doctors and pharmacists on every aspect of medicinal cannabis, with over 1,700 now registered on MCinfo.com.

Slowly but surely, the lift in both patient appetite and doctor awareness is starting to show in official Ministry of Health statistics.

Since the start of last year, we’ve seen overall growth in the number of medicinal cannabis packs supplied domestically. This includes products containing just cannabidiol (CBD), products containing just tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and products containing both.

While they’re not huge numbers, the total of medicinal cannabis packs supplied each month has doubled from just over 2,000 in January 2021 to just over 4,000 in March 2022.

Importantly, as the Ministry of Health noted, pack numbers cannot be used to determine the number of prescriptions or the number of patients. Further, Sativex has consent for distribution as a medicine, and so if you included Sativex, the amount of medicinal cannabis now being officially supplied domestically is likely larger.

Helius was the first local business to achieve GMP certification 12 months ago, with local medicinal cannabis products available to Kiwi patients since October last year.

Since then, other local producers have achieved verification with more local brands and products coming on the market. In many cases, as MCinfo’s Don Budge observed, “they’re nowhere near as expensive” as the imported products, with local pharmacies best placed to answer questions on pricing.

When The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill passed on 11 December 2018, the Government declared that the legislation will ultimately “help people ease their suffering by making a wider range of quality medicinal cannabis products available over time”.

This is not about growing pot. This is about pharmaceutical grade medicines manufacturing. The fact that this new sunrise industry has got established so quickly, and is now delivering for Kiwi patients, deserves celebration, not criticism. This is just the beginning.

Cannabis collab will see NZ deliver world-first medicines

New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, has announced a collaboration with Greenlab – the country’s most experienced biotechnology company in medicinal cannabis genetic development and breeding programmes.

The joint research programme aims to further unlock the potential of medicinal cannabis. It will expand Helius’ genetics library, enabling the company to develop more specialised and targeted therapeutics for patients unable to find solutions through conventional pharmaceuticals.

“Discovering more about the make-up of the cannabinoid profile, and encapsulating those discoveries, will ultimately help us deliver to patients with unique needs, chronic, and multi-layered conditions,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

The collaboration is co-funded by Helius itself and by a Callaghan Innovation grant the company received in 2019. Funding from that grant has already gone towards identifying the most advantageous cultivars from imported seeds for the formulation of cannabis medicines. Identifying strains with strong potential for disease-specificity has also been key.

Helius will now expand its genetics and breeding programme to allow for the development of unique genetic material – work it believes will sharpen New Zealand’s competitive edge on the world stage of cannabis medicines.

“Helius has completed some initial genetics and breeding programmes internally and we’re now into new product development. Formulating future medicines requires a library of unique genetics to select from, and that’s what we’re now building. It’s an exciting programme,” she says.

Ms Doran says with over 140 cannabinoids and terpenes already discovered, many with therapeutic outcomes, further unlocking the cannabis plant’s potential through collaborations like this is exciting research for both companies and the country.

Founded in 2019, Greenlab became the first South Island-based cannabis company to be awarded a R&D licence. Since then, it has become the country’s most experienced in medicinal cannabis genetics evaluation, believing it is now three years ahead of any other New Zealand competitor.

Last year, Greenlab was the recipient of The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) grant for its Lincoln University-based $1.9 million medicinal cannabis genetics research programme.

“We have been impressed with Greenlab’s commitment to science and exemplary practice and process as well as its determination to help develop novel and efficacious products for patients here and across the world,” she says.

Over the next 12 months, Greenlab will work with Helius’ genetics library to assess, and evaluate, based strictly on a set of criteria Helius is looking for to develop future medicines.

“Our decision to work with Greenlab will see us expand our breeding library with genetics unique and specific to New Zealand and to Helius. They have talented scientists, a dedicated research unit and equipment, as well as close ties to Lincoln University,” says Ms Doran.

Greenlab Director (Research & Commercialisation) Dr Parmjit Randhawa says it has chosen to work with Helius as the company was the first into the New Zealand market, is close to exporting, and is keen to develop and deliver truly world-first products with patients’ complex healthcare needs at the fore.

He strongly believes the collaboration will go long way to fast-tracking and establishing the emerging medicinal cannabis industry in New Zealand.

“New Zealand regulations gave our researchers access to vital local cannabis genetic material – unlike Australia. This regulatory hallmark has already put New Zealand at forefront of medical cannabis research to develop and grow novel germplasm for characterised compounds, repeatedly four to six times in one calendar year.

“This will be a win-win for the licenced growers, end users, and manufacturers to get the flower consistency batch after batch,” says Dr Randhawa.

Helius says its decision to collaborate with an outside research partner will only accelerate its product pathway. Importantly, it will also minimise cross-contamination with its commercial plants as the Auckland-based company ramps up for export this year. Helius has also invested in tissue culture capability to store a wider range of genetics onsite at its headquarters.

“Expanding our genetics library is key to developing specific and unique pharmaceutical products which we’ve got pipelined. It’s also about satisfying critical European market requirements which is a priority destination for us,” she says.

In July 2021, Helius became the first medicinal cannabis company in New Zealand to be GMP certified and gain a Licence to Manufacture Medicines covering the first products to market.

Recently the Ministry of Health renewed and expanded Helius’ licence, allowing the company to register additional medicines and make active ingredients onsite from raw cannabis material. Already delivering in New Zealand, Helius is set to be the first company to produce both Kiwi-grown and made cannabis medicines in the world.

Every New Zealand doctor can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition, with local products proving more cost effective for Kiwi patients.

“New Zealand’s quality standards are recognised throughout Europe and in many other countries. However, like everything else, New Zealand must compete on quality not quantity. That’s why collaborations like this are so important for our country’s newest industry. We need to deliver new and novel products that work where others don’t,” says Carmen Doran.

Helius is fast becoming known for its research collaborations. Others include its work alongside Auckland University of Technology (AUT) PhD students, the University of Canterbury’s Engineering Faculty, and Palmerston North-based company BioLumic on world-leading ultraviolet technology.

About Helius

Helius is focused on medicinal cannabis research, innovation, manufacturing and commercialisation. It is the country’s largest licenced producer, the first to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines, and the first medicinal cannabis cultivator to be certified as New Zealand Grown through the Buy NZ Made Campaign. The company operates a state-of-the-art, integrated facility in East Auckland with indoor controlled growing systems, extraction site, an advanced cannabinoid research laboratory and manufacturing. Helius is setting the standard for effective and accessible medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand and beyond.

www.helius.co.nz

(www.greenlab.co.nz)

Opposition leader tours NZ medicinal cannabis company, Helius

MP for Botany, Christopher Luxon, has visited local medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, where he viewed production of the first New Zealand grown and made full-spectrum products, due to be launched in the second half of this year.

“Mr Luxon’s visit to New Zealand’s newest industry was well received. During his tour, he could see we’re busy delivering for the domestic market, with exports starting later this year. He appreciated the sheer scale and complexity of our medicines manufacturing here in East Tamaki,” says Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius Therapeutics.

During the visit to New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company, Mr Luxon took the opportunity to meet and speak with Helius staff, reinforcing the importance of such new businesses and industries for the country’s future.

Opposition leader tours NZ medicinal cannabis company, Helius

“Innovative businesses like Helius will play a key role in New Zealand’s economic recovery. It is great to see them leading the way in research and development, as well as now delivering premium, natural New Zealand products to patients here and soon overseas. Best of all, it’s coming out of the very productive electorate of Botany,” says Christopher Luxon.

The MP’s 26 May visit follows the Ministry of Health renewing and expanding Helius’ licence, allowing the company to register additional medicines and make active ingredients onsite from raw cannabis material.

Following the initial availability of Kiwi-manufactured products using imported ingredients, 100% locally grown products are now imminent. Organic dried flower from the South Island will soon arrive en masse at Helius for precision processing, including CBD extraction.

“Since the inception of the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, Kiwis have been waiting for New Zealand grown and made medicinal cannabis products. For the industry to be able to deliver these for patients is exactly why we’re in business – getting quality local medicines to those who need them most,” says Ms Doran.

Helius has an 8,800sqm research, medicines manufacturing and indoor cannabis cultivation complex. Last year, it was the country’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines, covering the first products to market.

Opposition leader tours NZ medicinal cannabis company, Helius

Every New Zealand GP can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition, with local products proving more cost effective for Kiwi patients.

With New Zealand’s quality standards recognised throughout Europe and many other countries, future export receipts will also be considerable. In fact, the global medicinal cannabis market is expected to grow to over NZ$60 billion by 2025, with plant-derived medicines rapidly increasing in popularity internationally.

Creating a New Zealand medicinal cannabis industry to deliver local products for Kiwis and contribute economically was unanimously supported by MPs in 2018.

“We’ve enjoyed significant support from the Ministry of Health, MedSafe, the Medicinal Cannabis Agency, and from politicians across the political spectrum. It has been a long haul but we’re in delivery mode and that’s exciting to share,” says Carmen Doran.

About Helius

Helius is focused on medicinal cannabis research, innovation, manufacturing and commercialisation. It is the country’s largest licenced producer, the first to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines, and the first medicinal cannabis cultivator to be certified as New Zealand Grown through the Buy NZ Made Campaign. The company operates a state-of-the-art, integrated facility in East Auckland with indoor controlled growing systems, extraction site, an advanced cannabinoid research laboratory and manufacturing. Helius is setting the standard for effective and accessible medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand and beyond.

www.helius.co.nz

Delivery mode: NZ’s Helius Therapeutics names new CCO

Julie Curphey has been appointed Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) at Helius Therapeutics – New Zealand’s largest licenced medicinal cannabis company. Prior to taking up the role on 1 May, she spent two months as Helius’ Director of Commercial Operations.

“Announcing Julie as our CCO reaffirms that Helius has a globally experienced team that’s busy getting the job done. We are now well and truly in delivery mode – serving Kiwi patients first and foremost then soon unleashing our export strategy,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

With extensive experience in technology, pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare and FMCG, Julie Curphey brings a strong track record in international product commercialisation and marketing, market research and customer insight, and change management.

“Given her success in highly competitive markets, Julie joins Helius as our commercial head at the perfect time. With Helius focused on innovation, scientific and technical prowess, Julie’s proven international business intelligence cements our leadership team’s highly complementary skill sets and diversity of thinking,” says Ms Doran.

Before joining Helius, Julie Curphey spent five years as Chief Marketing Officer at Blis Technologies based in Dunedin.

For 11 years she was with Pfizer overseas, joining as Group Manager – Business Intelligence & Market Research at Pfizer Australia, then transferring to Pfizer UK as Business Intelligence Team Leader. She was appointed Head of Customer Intelligence for Pfizer Europe’s Primary Care Business Unit, then European Brand Team Leader for Viagra, and most recently, Director of Business Operations/Chief of Staff.

Helius - Julie Curphey CCO
Helius – Julie Curphey CCO

As well as earlier roles with Research International, Colmar Brunton, New Zealand Dairy Board and HortResearch, Ms Curphey has a Bachelor Consumer & Applied Science (Food Science) from the University of Otago and a Master of Business Administration (Distinction) from the Graduate School of Management, University of Western Australia.

The new CCO says she’s delighted to be part of New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis industry which in the past year has transitioned from an aspirational space to one of delivery. Under New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, every New Zealand GP can prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition with local products now available.

“It is great to be part of a company that is driven by patient needs. There is considerable unmet need out there and much work to do to make medicinal cannabis as accessible as possible,” says Ms Curphey.

Helius was New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines in July 2021, covering the first products to market. Last month, Helius was awarded the industry’s first licence renewal and expansion to enable it to produce both New Zealand grown and made CBD active ingredients and products.

Ms Curphey says 100%-Kiwi owned Helius has been a trailblazer for the country’s newest industry, delivering for Kiwi patients desperate for local medicines they can trust and afford.

“Medicinal cannabis has the potential to become one of New Zealand’s largest export earners with the overseas demand for plant-based therapeutics expediential. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity for our country as we recover post pandemic,” says Ms Curphey.

“As well as getting new products out domestically and opening doors internationally, a key part of Julie’s work will be delivering some comprehensive initiatives and educational support for Kiwi patients and prescribers. Quality of life is at the heart of everything Helius does and that means getting medicines to those who need them most,” says Carmen Doran.

New licence – great news for Kiwi cannabis patients

“The industry’s first licence renewal and expansion will enable Helius to produce New Zealand grown and made medicinal cannabis products – something Kiwi patients have been waiting for since the inception of the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme. It’s an exciting milestone,” says Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Helius was New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines in July 2021, covering the first products to market.

The Ministry of Health has now renewed and expanded Helius’ licence allowing the Auckland-based company to make active ingredients onsite from raw cannabis material.

Every New Zealand GP can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition, with Kiwi-manufactured products using imported active ingredients available for the past six months.

“Right now, you can go to your doctor and get medicinal cannabis products that are New Zealand-made. However, accessing both locally grown and locally made products is even better news for Kiwi patients,” says Ms Doran.

The licence expansion follows Helius signing a multi-million-dollar supply deal in January with New Zealand’s largest and only organic certified medicinal cannabis grower, Puro. It will see over 10 tonnes of organic dried flower supplied to Helius over the next five years – the equivalent ofapproximately five shipping containers.

Following its latest South Island harvest, Puro dried flower will be sent to Helius in the coming weeks for precision processing, including CBD extraction. Additional medicines also require stability testing and product registration.

At the end of this year, Helius will unleash its exporting strategy. Ms Doran says the expanded GMP licence together with the supply deal will give the company the necessary scale to launch premium Kiwi grown and made products overseas.

“New Zealand’s GMP Certificate is recognised throughout Europe and many other countries around the world, opening up considerable export possibilities.

“With the global medicinal cannabis market expected to grow to over NZ$60 billion by 2025, our nascent industry has the potential to become one of New Zealand’s largest export earners,” she says.

Earlier this month the Government announced that Helius would work alongside Puro on research and development and the creation of an organic manufacturing road map. The five-year workstream is part of a $32 million project to accelerate the growth of the country’s new medicinal cannabis industry and highlights strong government support for it.

“The longer-term ambition is for New Zealand to achieve both organically-grown and organically-manufactured high quality cannabis medicines – which will prove enormously popular given New Zealand’s clean, green image internationally,” says Carmen Doran.

NZ engineers to drive better outcomes for cannabis patients

New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, has launched an industry collaboration with the University of Canterbury’s Engineering Faculty.

It sees Helius working together over the coming months with Biomedical, Mechanical, and Mechatronics Engineering students supervised by Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase.

Prof Geoff Chase

The final-year student project centres around how accurately the likes of stress, anxiety and chronic pain can be measured using wearable devices. Traditionally, assessments and medical impacts on such health conditions are measured subjectively by patients themselves and thus variability can cloud the results because patients may feel differently on any given day.

Now, four final-year UC Engineering students will assess the measurability potential of common wearable technologies, such as FitBit, Garmin and Google watches. They will evaluate algorithms, consider clinical needs, and develop methods to download data.

While all New Zealand doctors can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for any condition, healthcare professionals are crying out for more scientific data to support their own learning journey and curiosity.

“Helius is committed to providing clinical evidence to prescribers and leading substantive research into quality-of-life measures for patients. Providing absolute data to healthcare professionals will ultimately help improve much-wanted patient access to medicinal cannabis,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Professor Chase says final-year projects bring together the University of Canterbury’s research capabilities, talented and enthusiastic students, and challenges that industry needs to meet.

He says this collaboration seeks to potentially create a significant advance on the objectivity of measurements that can be made in clinical drug trials where cannabis would be effective.

“Importantly, it brings a nascent New Zealand industry together with our prior research experience. Students gain valuable experience to apply their engineering skills to real problems. At the same time, sponsoring industry partners make innovative and commercial strides knowing they’ve also added to the knowledge base of future graduates,” he says.

While this collaboration measuring stress, anxiety and sleep with wearable devices may be a first for the two organisations, Ms Doran and Professor Chase have worked together before.

Ms Doran studied at the University of Canterbury with Professor Chase, graduating with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering awarded with Distinction. Together they published more than a dozen international scientific, engineering, and medical papers.

“It was 20 years ago exactly that Carmen was a student of mine in a similarly important final-year project. The outcomes of that project led to a major change in clinical practice in ICU care. It’s great to have her technical expertise and to work alongside the country’s first medicinal cannabis business to gain a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines,” says Professor Chase.

Mentoring the project with Professor Chase is Dr Rick Acland – Helius board member and senior adviser. Dr Acland AFRM (RACP) is one of New Zealand’s leading pain specialists, who has been a long-time consultant at both Christchurch’s Burwood Spinal Unit and Auckland Spinal Unit.

Helius has a state-of-the-art 8,800sqm research, medicines manufacturing and indoor cannabis cultivation complex in East Auckland. Now in itscommercialisation phase and delivering in the domestic market, Helius is set to export later this year.

“Innovation and collaboration are key to New Zealand creating world-leading efficacious, novel, and safe next-generation medicinal cannabis therapeutics. This collaboration with UC Engineering is a win-win-win – a win for students, a win for our company, and a win for New Zealand’s most exciting sunrise industry,” says Carmen Doran.

www.helius.co.nz

New phase for Helius as David Darling joins board

David Darling has been appointed as an independent director on the board at Helius Therapeutics – New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis company.

Mr Darling has had an extensive career working on the development, growth and international commercialisation of life sciences and biotechnology products businesses.

“Helius is at the forefront of tomorrow’s plant-based medicines. Globally, there is a significant movement towards naturally derived medicines, with the pain management capabilities of cannabinoids now well established internationally. It’s an incredibly exciting and fast-growing industry, with Helius already delivering,” says Mr Darling.

Following a career with Fletcher Challenge, he has been Chief Executive of Pacific Edge for 19 years – a NZX50 business focused on commercialising its bladder cancer diagnostics tests in global markets.

Mr Darling led the Pacific Edge team to develop a suite of proprietary molecular diagnostic tests and built active commercial businesses in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the US. The company is now listed on both the NZX and ASX and is included in the S&P NZX50 Index.

“With Helius now in its commercialisation phase and about to unleash its export strategy, David’s arrival is very good timing given our planned growth. He brings a comprehensive set of skills and global experiences that will support our team to develop new products and enter new markets,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

In mid-2021 Helius became New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to gain a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines. Then in October last year the Medicinal Cannabis Agency announced that two new local medicinal cannabis products had met the minimum quality standard for commercial sale and use. Recently, Helius announced New Zealand’s largest cannabis supply agreement with South Island-based organic cultivator, Puro.

Holding prime mover advantage, Helius has invested in building a world-class team with skills from plant culture to pharmaceutical development and commercialisation.

The 100% Kiwi-owned private company has a state-of-the-art 8,800sqm medicines manufacturing and indoor cannabis cultivation complex in East Auckland. Helius is focused on commercialising its pipeline of medicines, creating efficacious, novel and safe next-generation medicinal cannabis therapeutics.

Mr Darling says he’s excited to join the board as Helius drives its innovation and commercialisation journey, and significantly scales up for growth in under-served international markets.

“Helius is a trailblazer and leader in New Zealand’s newest industry. The company continues to successfully meet all the unique demands and challenges that come with the transition from a start-up business to one of early-stage growth.

“I’m impressed by Helius’ investors, board members, management, and staff. The company has an absolute focus on its founding motivation – to improve patients’ quality of life with locally produced plant-based medicines at more affordable prices,” says David Darling.

Carmen Doran says investing heavily in a world-class team, production, and manufacturing facilities means Helius is well geared for an expansive and global future.

“David’s arrival represents an exciting time in our business as we begin to execute our international growth phase. Curiosity and diversity of thought at all levels of the business will continue to help Helius provide the most innovative, natural healthcare solutions for patients here and abroad,” says Ms Doran.

David Darling replaces Helius founder, JP Schmidt, who is stepping down after five years in the business, remaining one of the cornerstone investors.

www.helius.co.nz

Kiwi medicinal cannabis to be exported this year

December marked three years since New Zealand’s Parliament unanimously passed legislation to enable a local medicinal cannabis industry. With overseas products limited and expensive, finally Kiwi patients would have legal access to quality local products at affordable prices.

After a myriad of industry regulations were finalised, New Zealand’s scheme and new Medicinal Cannabis Agency took effect in April 2020.

“Yes, it has been complicated process and a long wait for patients. However, when it comes to pharmaceutical standards and people’s healthcare, it has been critical for the Ministry of Health to implement and oversee a rigorous regulatory regime,” says Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Last year concerns were raised that patients were set to go without. That’s because under New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, most overseas products no longer met the new minimum standards.

From 1 October 2021, doctors could no longer prescribe those imported products. From 4 October, however, the Medicinal Cannabis Agency announced that two local products had been verified. Finally, locally manufactured products were available.

This year Kiwi patients will see more cost-effective local products. Helius became New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to gain a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines in July 2021. Rua Bioscience then received its GMP licence with a product recently verified for release in 2022, and other businesses will follow.

“Some people may have quite a rudimentary image as to how cannabis products are made. In reality, a successful cultivation and manufacturing facility relies on an internationally experienced team. Complying with some of the world’s highest quality standards requires deep pharmaceutical expertise,” she says.

Ms Doran says Helius’ places trust in science and the standards – both of which will give New Zealand a competitive edge.

“As the old adage goes, it’s quality not quantity. Where our country’s newest industry will succeed is in research and development and delivering new and novel products boasting greater efficacy and safety.”

She says as the only local medicinal cannabis business that has road-tested its production and distribution processes in New Zealand, Helius is excited to scale up and export the first Kiwi-manufactured products to Europe from this year.

“New Zealand has achieved a notable slice of the international wine market. Through smart innovation and collaboration, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same with medicinal cannabis. News like Puro NZ being granted BioGro Organic status for its expansive outdoor cultivation only adds an edge.”

She says post pandemic New Zealand needs sunrise industries to succeed and its national export earnings to lift. With the global cannabis market expected to grow from $18.7b in 2020 to $61.3b in 2025, even a sliver of this pie will be well worth getting. It will mean more businesses and more jobs here at home.

“The priority for now is Kiwi patients. Afterall they, and their advocates, have fought long and hard for better access to these natural medicines.”

Ms Doran says affordability is starting to be achieved, but better access also means more doctors willing to prescribe. As it stands, 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 doctors effectively the gatekeepers, prescriber education is a key component to patient access. In fact, surveys show, doctors themselves are the first to acknowledge they need to be better informed about medicinal cannabis and what and how it can effectively treat.”

The good news for New Zealand patients is that many more healthcare professionals are now genuinely curious and actively educating themselves. This is known not only through encouraging prescription data, but registrations to educational resources and events.

Two good examples are MCInfo and MedCan. Over 1,300 doctors and pharmacists have now registered on MCinfo – which is a dedicated medicinal cannabis online information service for both Kiwi prescribers and patients. Tellingly, February’s MedCan Summit 2022, in Auckland, has also received many more registrations from doctors than the inaugural industry summit in 2020.

“As the country’s largest medicinal cannabis company, we are thrilled to sponsor such opportunities for doctors to be better informed. We also know that with more local products set to be verified in 2022, GPs will receive more enquiries and questions from patients.

“Interestingly, we’re not just talking about delivering next-generation local products for humans. There’s also a massive opportunity for New Zealand to treat companion animals from all around the world with cannabis. In fact, globally, the pet category is incredibly fast-growing,” she says.

Helius’ subsidiary company, Hale Animal Health, is now developing clinically trialled non-psychoactive CBD products for pets. Together, both companies may be the first in the world to officially register cannabis medicines for veterinarians to prescribe.

“Medicinal cannabis is an exciting opportunity for New Zealand – and probably bigger than what MPs imagined three years ago when they gave it the green light. Yes, its establishment has been a long and hard haul, but thankfully the industry has now moved into the most important phase – delivery,” says Carmen Doran.

Ends

Carmen Doran is the chief executive of Helius Therapeutics and a board member of the New Zealand Medicinal Cannabis Council.

www.helius.co.nz

ENDS

Contact: Carmen Doran – Chief Executive at Helius Therapeutics

carmen.doran@helius.com or (022) 673-2146

Medicinal cannabis industry now in delivery phase

This month marks three years since Parliament unanimously passed the legislation to enable a New Zealand medicinal cannabis industry. With overseas products limited and expensive, finally Kiwi patients would have legal access to quality local products at affordable prices.

After a myriad of industry regulations were finalised, New Zealand’s scheme and new Medicinal Cannabis Agency took effect in April last year.

Yes, it has been complicated process and a long wait for patients. However, when it comes to pharmaceutical standards and people’s healthcare, it has been critical for the Ministry of Health to implement and oversee a rigorous regulatory regime.

This year concerns were raised that patients were set to go without. That’s because under New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, most overseas products no longer met the new minimum standards.

From 1 October, doctors could no longer prescribe those imported products. From 4 October, however, the Medicinal Cannabis Agency announced that two local products had been verified. Finally, locally manufactured products were available.

Next year patients will see more cost-effective local products. Helius became New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to gain a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines in July. Rua Bioscience then received its GMP licence with a product recently verified for release in 2022, and other businesses will follow.

Some people may have quite a rudimentary image as to how cannabis products are made. In reality, a successful cultivation and manufacturing facility relies on an internationally experienced team. Complying with some of the world’s highest quality standards requires deep pharmaceutical expertise.

At Helius, we place our trust in science and the standards – both of which will give New Zealand a competitive edge. As the old adage goes, it’s quality not quantity. Where our country’s newest industry will succeed is in research and development and delivering new and novel products boasting greater efficacy and safety.

As the only local medicinal cannabis business that has road-tested our production and distribution processes here in New Zealand, we’re excited to scale up and export the first Kiwi-manufactured products to Europe from next year.

New Zealand has achieved a notable slice of the international wine market. Through smart innovation and collaboration, there’s no reason why we can’t do the same with medicinal cannabis. News like Puro NZ being granted BioGro Organic status for its expansive outdoor cultivation only adds an edge.

Post pandemic we need sunrise industries to succeed and our national export earnings to lift. With the global cannabis market expected to grow from $18.7b in 2020 to $61.3b in 2025, even a sliver of this pie will be well worth getting. It will mean more businesses and more jobs here at home.

The priority for now is Kiwi patients. Afterall they, and their advocates, have fought long and hard for better access to these natural medicines.

Affordability is starting to be achieved, but better access also means more doctors willing to prescribe. As it stands, 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 doctors effectively the gatekeepers, prescriber education is a key component to patient access. In fact, surveys show, doctors themselves are the first to acknowledge they need to be better informed about medicinal cannabis and what and how it can effectively treat.

The good news for New Zealand patients is that many more healthcare professionals are now genuinely curious and actively educating themselves. We know this not only through encouraging prescription data, but registrations to educational resources and events.

Two good examples are MCInfo and MedCan. Over 1,300 doctors and pharmacists have now registered on MCinfo – which is a dedicated medicinal cannabis online information service for both Kiwi prescribers and patients. Tellingly, February’s MedCan Summit 2022, in Auckland, has also received many more registrations from doctors than the inaugural industry summit in 2020.

As the country’s largest medicinal cannabis company, we are thrilled to sponsor such opportunities for doctors to be better informed. We also know that with more local products set to be verified in 2022, GPs will receive more enquiries and questions from patients.

Interestingly, we’re not just talking about delivering next-generation local products for humans. There’s also a massive opportunity for New Zealand to treat companion animals from all around the world with cannabis. In fact, globally, the pet category is incredibly fast-growing.

Helius’ subsidiary company, Hale Animal Health, is now developing clinically trialled non-psychoactive CBD products for pets. Together, we may be the first in the world to officially register cannabis medicines for veterinarians to prescribe.

Medicinal cannabis is an exciting opportunity for New Zealand – and probably bigger than what MPs imagined three years ago when they gave it the green light. Yes, its establishment has been a long and hard haul, but thankfully the industry has now moved into the most important phase – delivery.

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Contact: Carmen Doran – Chief Executive at Helius Therapeutics

carmen.doran@helius.com or (022) 673-2146

MedCan 2022 perfectly timed for local cannabis industry

“With New Zealand’s cannabis businesses now delivering for Kiwi patients and set to export, February’s MedCan is perfectly timed to bring the sector and many key stakeholders together,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Helius is the foundation sponsor of the country’s largest medicinal cannabis summit, MedCan 2022. Given New Zealand is in the red setting of the Covid Protection Framework, the two-day industry event will be run virtually on 10 and 11 February.

Ms Doran says with its GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines issued mid-last year and its export strategy to be unleashed this year, Helius is thrilled to be playing an active part at MedCan 2022.

It comes as Helius has signed New Zealand’s largest supply contract with Marlborough-based organic cultivator Puro. The five-year deal will further enhance Kiwis’ access to locally made cannabis medicines as well as provide much needed scale for international success.

On MedCan’s first morning, Carmen Doran will join other key local cannabis leaders on a CEO panel, discussing ‘The state of play of New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis industry in 2022 and beyond’. She’ll then moderate the ‘Women in the medicinal cannabis industry’ panel.

Internationally, the fast-growing medicinal cannabis sector sees many women in significant leadership roles, with the value of the global cannabis market expected to grow three-fold to over $60b in 2025.

“At Helius we’re no exception. Our Chair, Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer, and Managing Director of our subsidiary company, Hale Animal Health, are women. New Zealand’s newest industry is certainly no boys club – exemplified by Executive Director of BioTechNZ, Dr Zahra Champion, leading MedCan,” says Ms Doran.

In the Science stream, Helius’ Cultivation Manager Kai Keli’iho’omalu will speak about understanding the diseases that threaten New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis industry.

On the second day, Helius Director Dr Rick Acland will MC the dedicated Healthcare Professionals Forum where Helius Advisory Board member James Yu will present from a pharmacist’s perspective.

Other key discussions include Ms Doran talking with Auckland University of Technology (AUT) medicinal cannabis expert Associate Professor Ali Seyfoddin about finding, attracting and retaining talent in the industry.

Helius recently announced a partnership with Dr Seyfoddin which sees it working alongside AUT doctoral students, researching and developing advanced medicinal cannabis products.

“The success of New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis industry relies not only on innovation but strong cross-sector collaboration. MedCan 2022 provides a unique opportunity to strengthen connections, and for GPs to grow their knowledge about this new and exciting frontier of care,” says Carmen Doran.

More than 30 international and local speakers will present at the summit including scientists, medical experts, clinicians, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers.

Further details on MedCan 2022 and its two-day programme are available on its website: www.medcansummit.co.nz

www.helius.co.nz

ENDS

Contact: Carmen Doran – Chief Executive at Helius Therapeutics

carmen.doran@helius.com or (022) 673-2146