Paul Manning knows first-hand the effects of opiate-based pain killers.
Having experienced chronic pain for over 15 years, he relied on his doctor and pharmacist to help him with pain management. Paul then found out the opiate-based pain killers had burned a hole in his stomach. “I thought there must be a more natural way to manage pain without the very serious side effects of these pharmaceutical drugs,” he says.
With a background of a successful communications and entrepreneurial career coupled with his own health journey, in 2018 Paul decided it was time for a change. He partnered with fellow entrepreneurs Guy Haddleton, JP Schmidt and Gavin Pook to create Helius – a biotech company focused on developing and producing medicinal cannabis therapeutics, based in East Tamaki, Auckland.
New regulations open doors
The Submission on The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill has passed to allowing for regulations to be written that will significantly improve patient access to locally-produced medicinal cannabis products. Additionally, while these changes are being made, people in palliative care can also access illicit cannabis without prosecution. This is a big win for people who are using cannabis to treat their symptoms and who have felt they needed to do so in the shadows or fear of legal action should they get caught.
The Ministry of Health has 12 months to complete regulations associated with the amended bill. In the coming months, the Ministry of Health have said they will hold a public consultation around their proposed regulations.
The MND community and others who are facing a terminal illness and want to gain access to more affordable alternatives like medicinal cannabis have the ability to write submissions to the Ministry of Health and government during this consultation time.
“In the short term, it’s a win for people who face life-threatening illnesses, to access the illicit market to help with palliation, easing the symptoms, particularly pain, associated with their illness,” says Paul. He says that the future of the regulations will open up to include those suffering from a wide variety of chronic conditions, such as anxiety, sleep and pain disorders, alongside others who would benefit from the therapeutic qualities of medicinal cannabis.
Currently, there is only one medicinal cannabis product available on the market for people with MND. Called Sativex, it is sold by Pharmac for approximately $1200 per month.
Helius wants to reduce the costs for people accessing medicinal cannabis in the near future. It is one of three companies who hold a licence to cultivate, manufacture and distribute medicinal cannabis. “We have a large-scale, licensed facility in East Tamaki and we’re preparing for rapid growth in this new industry. Our mission is to improve quality of life by producing high quality products, available to the local and international markets. By producing more and varied products, locally, people living with chronic conditions will be able to readily access quality cannabis medicines, at a greatly reduced cost,” says Paul.
The amended bill gives patients and physicians more power to help with managing symptoms and illness by allowing patients to reasonably gain access to physicians who can prescribe medicinal cannabis.
An education programme supporting specialists and physicians with prescribing medicinal cannabis has been suggested to the Ministry of Health. Helius has also committed to ongoing education activity to support physicians, pharmacists and the public.
A recent study in the Pharmacy Journal stated the benefits of medicinal cannabis in a six-week trial. Research is an important part of widening the availability and supporting treatments like medicinal cannabis.
Paul says, “Helius is a research-centric company. We are committed to investing heavily into medicinal cannabis R&D and this year we have hired a world-class technical director to lead new product development.”
Given the bill has now moved into a regulatory category within law, Paul reflects, “It is an outstanding and unprecedented time for the industry. New Zealand has a reputation for exporting high quality goods to international markets; with new regulations in place, it will open up the market for medicinal cannabis products to be sourced and sold locally and exported for international use.”
MND New Zealand recommends talking to your doctor for any medical advice. MND New Zealand continues to remain neutral on the topic.
To find out more about Helius visit www.helius.co.nz
To make submission or find out more you can contact Hon. David Clark
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