Pharmac the agency responsible for deciding which medicines get subsidised plans to discuss the Sativex spray with its primary clinical advisory committee according to a letter from Pharmac released on Friday.
Pharmac said Sativex contained cannabidiol with tetrahydrocannabinol or THC – the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
The agency said consideration from the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee was the first step in assessing the funding of a new medicine.
According to Medsafe Sativex was already approved for use in New Zealand as ‘an add-on treatment’ for some patients with moderate to severe spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.
Specifically it could be given to people who hadn’t responded adequately to other anti-spasticity medication and who showed improvement in spasticity-related symptoms during an initial trial of therapy.
Any other use of Sativex was currently banned.
During all of my posts on Medical Cannabis there have been may references to Sativex – the only LEGAL medical Cannabis preparation in NZ – so I thought it was time to delve deeply into the product and explain it – and why it is an incomplete solution to the problem of medical Cannabis in NZ.
Sativex – with the scientific name nabixomols is essentially hash oil in a mouth spray designed and patented by GW Pharma. Grown in high quality conditions – mould (bud rot) and pesticide use is controlled – just like at other high end medical Cannabis growing companies. Bedrocan from the Netherlands and Canada and Tikkun Olam from Israel also grow the plants to similarly tight conditions – so firstly the growing phase is not particularly special or unique.
To quote Kevin Hague ‘If they can do it- there seems to be no reason why New Zealand – a country that prides itself on high-quality primary production – cannot’.
In order for Sativex to have a reliable dose per spray it is unique in that it is made from 2 Cannabis liquids – a High THC variety similar to the plants grown for recreational purposes – and a high CBD Variety similar to the famed “Charlottes web” strain. By manufacturing the liquids separately they can then factor in for variances in yield – as the 2 oils are mixed – and get a more accurate dosing than if a single breed of plant was grown with an intended ratio from the start.
To make it seem more pharmaceutical and artificial (important for public perception) the typical amber or brown color of hash oils had to go – this is the magic sauce – a patented process is used to remove the chlorophyll and and much of coloration that may normally be visible for example – in “honey oil”