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Summit: Medicinal cannabis sector delivers for Kiwi patients

MedCan Summit 2022: ‘Women in the medicinal cannabis industry panel’ – Moderator Carmen Doran (Chief Executive Officer, Helius Therapeutics), Zoë Reece (Founder and CEO, Ora Pharm), and Eva Neshat (Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Elysian Pharmaceuticals & CannaPlus+). Dr Dottie Clower (Chief Scientific Officer, Puro) joined the panel virtually.
“MedCan 2022 successfully brought together New Zealand’s newest sector which is excited to now be making a real difference for Kiwi patients and the economy,” says Dr Zahra Champion, executive director of BioTechNZ and MedCan Summit 2022 organiser.

New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis summit, including a one-day Healthcare Professionals Forum, took place virtually on 10 and 11 February, with the content livestreamed from a studio at AUT. More than 400 delegates registered, with over 30 international and national expert speakers presenting. What’s more, roundtable discussions gave attendees the opportunity to interact with each other.

Dr Champion says one of the many highlights was hearing Health Minister Andrew Little’s address which acknowledged the sector’s progress.

“I want to thank the medicinal cannabis industry for your pioneering work producing safe products that consumers want and building a world class export industry,” said the Minister.

He said despite the medicinal cannabis scheme operational for only two years, significant progress has been made.

“The domestic industry is becoming well established with 39 active licences covering cultivation, possession for manufacture and supply activities. Locally manufactured CBD products are available that cost less than imported products. Three companies have been granted licences to manufacture medicinal cannabis products and more licence applications are in the pipeline,” he said.

He noted in the past week alone, two more products have been verified against the quality standards, with a total of 10 products now in the domestic market. On quality standards, the Health Minister acknowledged that there is a cost to regulatory compliance. However, New Zealand’s standards are focused on ensuring world class safety and quality.

“They are set to protect patients and to give prescribers confidence that the products they are prescribing will not contain harmful contaminants and contain stable and consistent levels of active ingredients as stated. The standards we have are an essential foundation for Aotearoa New Zealand’s reputation as a world leading, trusted supplier into the future,” said Mr Little.

Dr Champion says the Minister reinforcing that domestically there are now local CBD products that cost less than imported ones is helpful for patient awareness and for local medicinal cannabis manufacturers who are unable to promote or even talk about their products due to statutory restrictions.

MedCan’s Foundation sponsor, Helius Therapeutics, raised similar concerns during the summit, saying too many Kiwis remain unaware of the sector’s successful delivery in recent months and that was frustrating.

“Several products have been verified as meeting the quality standards. However, local manufacturers must remain silent until they achieve approved medicines status. High GMPstandards now give prescribers’ confidence, but until Kiwi manufacturers go through exhaustive clinical trials they can’t say much. MedCan 2022 was key to shining much-needed light on what the sector’s now achieving for local patients,” says Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius Therapeutics.

MedCan Summit 2022 was organised by NZTech and BioTechNZ - a not for profit, membership-funded organisation with the goal of maximising New Zealand’s bioscience and technology capability to create a strong New Zealand bioeconomy. BioTechNZ is part of the New Zealand Tech Alliance.

Dr Zahra Champion says work will soon begin on MedCan Summit 2023, with the sector’s many stakeholders looking forward to getting together in person again.

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