How the Cannabis Industry Can Benefit from Leveraging Pharmaceutical Resources

February 3, 2020
Volume: 
3
Issue: 
1
Abstract / Synopsis: 

Currently in the cannabis industry, the standards and benchmarks for drug delivery, analytics and testing, consumer reporting, and packaging are basic in nature with substantial room for more sophistication and technology. In these areas, the cannabis industry can immensely benefit from leveraging the hundreds of years of pharmaceutical study and research. Here’s how.

With the rise of cannabis legalization across North America has come a rise in the prevalence of niche expertise in the cannabis sector. As cannabis enterprises and partnerships continue to form across the continent, the industry as a whole is maturing and refining itself at a rapid rate, but with what benchmarks?

Currently in the cannabis industry, the standards and benchmarks for drug delivery, analytics and testing, consumer reporting, and packaging are basic in nature with substantial room for more sophistication and technology. In these areas, the cannabis industry can immensely benefit from leveraging the hundreds of years of pharmaceutical study and research. Here’s how.

Drug Delivery

The route of cannabis administration has a vast impact on efficacy, duration, and time of onset. These are critical components when designing any specific cannabis-infused product. What the cannabis industry needs from the pharmaceutical industry is the insight into methods the pharmaceutical experts use to make these molecules more bioavailable for consumer consumption, which can lead to more accurate information on dosing and increased efficiency of cannabis intake. Additionally, the cannabis industry can also benefit from adapting current pharmaceutical drug delivery systems, such as nasal spray devices or microneedle patches. Combining both, the cannabis industry has the power to greatly strengthen current drug delivery practices.

For decades, biomedical engineers have researched various ways in which certain drugs can be delivered to the human body. How a drug moves through cells and tissues dictates how it’s delivered, at what speed, the form in which the medicine takes, and how it eventually impacts the user. While the traditional recreational cannabis market has focused on user experience often at the expense of efficacy, truly therapeutic products must still ensure patient compliance by being discrete, minimally invasive, and high in sensory acceptability.

When it comes to delivery method several variables are at play including routes of delivery, delivery systems (delivery devices and formulated delivery vehicles), and targeting strategies. Any variation of these elements can result in unwanted side-effects. Most negative side effects occur when a drug comes into contact with tissues that are not the target of that specific drug. To decrease side effects, clinicians have often utilized medicine that locally targets areas of the body affected by disease. By treating an ailment locally it minimizes those unintentional interactions, and in turn results in fewer negative side effects. This type of targeted treatment also lessens the amount of medicine needed and increases the likelihood of positive treatment outcomes.

When it comes to route of delivery, medications are typically delivered in the following ways: swallowing, inhaling either through the nose or mouth, absorbing through the skin (topical) or sublingually through tissues within the mouth, or by intravenous injection. While some exhibit higher patient compliance than others, not all delivery methods are created equal. In addition, while some delivery methods require formulations that are less stable, requiring demanding storage conditions, others are so simple they can be administered at home by the patient themselves.

One of the most interesting areas for further research and development is the transdermal route of delivery. The pharmaceutical industry has already optimized the current transdermal patch delivery mechanism, and is now looking towards novel transdermal delivery systems, such as microneedle. As previously referenced, microneedle drug delivery is a relatively new pharmaceutical method that delivers medicine topically through the skin. Microneedle patches consist of dozens of microscopic needles that can penetrate the skin to deliver medicine transdermally with fast uptake and high bioavailability. The National Institute of Biomedical Image and Bioengineering (NIBIB) has reported that they are currently developing a patch containing dissolvable microneedles that could serve as vaccine delivery. Unlike its traditional counterpart, these patches will be easy to use and do not require special storage or disposal methods, and thus could effectively be used by the patient at home. This method could also greatly serve communities with fewer resources and storage options needed for traditional, refrigerated medicine.

In addition to drug delivery devices, formulated delivery vehicles also greatly impact the efficacy of certain drugs. In recent months, nanotechnology researchers have found promising results when directly injecting nanoparticles into infected tumors. This could effectively replace a type of gene therapy that uses viruses, which can have negative side effects and unexpected outcomes. Other researchers are developing formulated drug delivery vehicles via bacteria that have magnetic and oxygen sensing navigation. It is evident that optimized drug delivery systems, consisting of validated delivery devices, coupled with formulated delivery vehicles is an area the pharma industry has significant expertise. If this knowledge and technology were applied to cannabis therapeutics, it could open the door to a host of new treatment opportunities.

Targeting strategies, which refer to local or systemic delivery, is another focus of research that could greatly benefit the cannabis industry. Pharmaceutical drugs typically target organs, tissues, infected cells, or the structures within the cells.

By implementing traditional pharmaceutical practices the cannabis industry has the opportunity to improve the therapeutic outcomes of newly developed products. Being able to utilize pharmaceutical data to minimize unwanted side effects and negative drug interactions could dictate the ways cannabis is ingested or applied. Improving onset time and bioavailability through unique drug delivery technology such as microneedles and nanoparticles will allow for the creation of a new generation of highly efficacious and minimally invasive cannabis derived therapies.

References: 
  1. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/pharmaceutical-quality-resources/current-good-manufacturingpractice-cgmp-regulations.
  2. https://www.cpsc.gov/Regulations-Laws--Standards/Statutes/Poison-Prevention-Packaging-Act/.

About the Authors:

Christian Sweeney is the Vice President of Science and Technology at Cannabistry in Denver, Colorado. Shehzad Hoosein is the Executive Vice President and VP of Research & Development at Cannabistry. Direct correspondence to: [email protected]

How to Cite This Article

C. Sweeney and S. Hoosein, Cannabis Science and Technology 3(1), 30-33 (2020).