Leading pain specialist’s cannabis role, encouraging for patients

Dr Rick Acland, a leading pain specialist, has been appointed to New Zealand’s largest licensed medicinal cannabis company, signalling great news for the 740,000 Kiwis suffering with chronic pain.

Dr Rick Acland, Director and Senior Advisor at Helius Therapeutics

“The appointment of a leading pain specialist to New Zealand’s largest licensed medicinal cannabis company is great news for the many Kiwis suffering from chronic pain,” says Paul Manning, Co-Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

His comments follow the announcement by Helius that Dr Richard Acland has been appointed to its board as an Independent Director and senior adviser.

“This is very exciting for the industry and the thousands of New Zealanders who could benefit from our cannabis medicines. Dr Acland’s research has already observed the benefits of cannabis when used by those with spinal cord injuries and chronic pain” says Mr Manning.

He says Dr Acland will play an important role in helping Helius Therapeutics develop clinically proven medical cannabis products, intended to ease the suffering of patients living with chronic pain.

“In the next few years, Helius expects to have a unique medicine that will target pain relief and provide improved quality of life for patients; especially those who have had to resort to opioid medicines in the past. Dr Acland will be critical to such success.”

Dr Acland co-authored a qualitative study, publicly released last week, assessing cannabis use for pain management in people often in constant pain from Spinal Cord Injury (SCI). The University of Otago and Burwood Academy of Independent Living study found that cannabis reduced the participants’ pain quickly and allowed them to engage more fully in daily activities without the side effects of traditional pain medication.

As one of New Zealand’s leading pain specialists, Dr Acland AFRM (RACP) has been a long-time consultant at both Burwood Hospital and the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit. His career has spanned practice in anesthesia, pain neuromodulation, and rehabilitation.

Dr Acland was President of the New Zealand Pain Society and a member of the Medical Council of New Zealand for nine years. He has conducted many research projects and published widely, including presenting a paper on the use of cannabis in SCI at the Australian and New Zealand Spinal Cord Society in 2017.

Mr Manning says, globally, pain is by far the number one condition for which cannabis is used to treat, and New Zealand will be no different.

Horizon Research, commissioned by Helius, confirmed that pain will be the number one condition that New Zealand patients seek medicinal cannabis for, and the leading condition that doctors are most likely to prescribe medicinal cannabis.

Helius Therapeutics is foundation sponsor for MedCan 2020 - New Zealand’s first international medicinal cannabis summit. BioTechNZ is hosting the two-day event on 18 and 19 March 2020 at SkyCity, which will include a presentation from Dr Acland.

“Recruiting talent and expertise both nationally and internationally is helping us build a truly world-class therapeutics company – and a stronger medicinal cannabis industry,” he says.

Mr Manning says several other key appointments at Helius will be announced soon.

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