The amount of clinical data relating to medical cannabis research is growing at an unprecedented rate, fueling demand for systems that can disseminate critical information to stakeholders.
These are exciting times for the medical cannabis industry. After decades of research being held back by legal restrictions, the barriers are finally coming down. While THC-rich cannabis still retains Schedule 1 status in the United States, numerous states have legitimized medical and recreational cannabis markets, and dozens of other countries around the world have legitimized cannabis consumption. With each jurisdiction that opens up to the medical cannabis market, opportunities arise for medical cannabis research to take place.
For decades now, Israel has been a haven for medical cannabis research, and, in recent years, Canada has also become a hotbed for cannabis-related studies. Our base of knowledge of the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis is growing more quickly than ever before. For medical cannabis stakeholders, it can be difficult to keep up.
Researchers, physicians and other stakeholders require up to date and verifiable cannabis data to make critical medical decisions. To meet this need, the cannabis industry is teaming up with data technology companies to build cannabis-focused data systems meant to help medical professionals, researchers and others stay informed on the rapidly evolving world of medical cannabis.
Clinical data enabling medical cannabis
While hesitation around medical cannabis still exists in the medical community, cannabis is taking on a greater role in mainstream medicine. The ongoing opioid crisis has highlighted a desperate need for non-opioid pain treatments, which has fueled renewed interest in cannabis as a potential treatment method. Several medical cannabis states, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have issued guidelines urging physicians to consider cannabis pain treatments as an alternative to opioids. Beginning in 2011, the emergence of CBD as a life-changing treatment for children suffering from severe epileptic disorders has received widespread public attention. Medical organizations like the Canadian Pharmacists Association are now seriously examining clinical data to determine the efficacy of cannabis treatments for a wide range of conditions in order to provide guidance to their members.
The buzz around medical cannabis is driving increased interest from patients and this demand is leading to rapid growth in the space. The global medical cannabis industry is projected to be worth more than US$37 billion by 2023, up from more than US$11 billion in 2017, for a compound annual growth rate of 22 percent, according to data by Research and Markets. In a December 2018 document on medical cannabis, the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that “clinicians are increasingly being asked by patients to share information about or certify them for medical cannabis,” and that clinicians need to be able to provide accurate knowledge about medical cannabis risks and benefits in their conversations with patients.
Clinical data closing the knowledge gap
Researchers are making significant progress in closing the gap in medical cannabis knowledge that has come from decades of excessively strict cannabis prohibition. We now know far more about how cannabis reacts with the human endocannabinoid system and how that process relates to the brain’s reaction to pain and other stimuli. The sheer volume of data being generated on the subject of medical cannabis today is unprecedented, which has led to a new problem. Because so much of our knowledge on the subject is relatively new, access to the information is not always available. As cannabis research continues to progress, medical professionals must be provided greater access to the information they need to make informed medical decisions.
In its 2018 “Real-World Evidence Benchmark Survey,” Deloitte Insights notes that 65 percent of biopharma industry leaders feel that they lack access to adequate external data, and the medical cannabis industry is no exception. The introduction of cannabis data systems that link industries to the latest research from the medical community could provide product builders with an invaluable asset to develop innovative, evidence-based solutions to pressing public health concerns. The need for data-driven insights in medical cannabis presents an opportunity to data technology companies that can bridge the gap between patients, physicians and cannabis product developers.
Nearly every sector of the medical cannabis space could benefit from greater access to data. Even in the most established legal cannabis jurisdictions, the regulatory schemes are still developing as more information pertinent to regulatory standards becomes available. The same comprehensive data systems that help the cannabis industry, medical professionals and patients make informed decisions could also be useful for regulatory agencies and government bodies as they draft evidence-based policy to govern the industry. As more jurisdictions open to legal cannabis, the availability of improved research data could help government policymakers avoid the pitfalls faced by their predecessors in early cannabis markets.
Data solutions supporting medical cannabis
The opportunity presented by the need for clinical data in the cannabis industry is not lost on data tech companies. CB2 Insights (CSE:CBII) currently operates 28 medical cannabis evaluation and education clinics in nine US states plus the District of Columbia. The next step for CB2 is to develop a data platform based on information generated by its partnering clinics. The company’s mission is to help bring cannabis into mainstream healthcare by providing a source for real-world evidence for stakeholders to work with.
Data technology company Cannvas MedTech (CSE:MTEC) is also developing its own crowdsourced cannabis data system. The company’s platform Cannvas Data generates insights from Cannvas’ own Cannvas.me educational program on consumer tastes, needs and habits. Through this approach, Cannvas hopes to produce the “census data of the cannabis industry.”
Knowledge and understanding of cannabis is key to its legitimacy as a mainstream form of medicine. As cannabis establishes itself as a major industry, the need for reliable and comprehensive sources of information has become all the more important. For companies capable of providing this data, the lack of cannabis-related research remains a significant opportunity. Cannabis data systems could play a key role in the future of medical cannabis.
This article was originally published by the Investing News Network in June 2019.
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