Shoppers Drug Mart to grow medical pot sales with data

Shoppers Drug Mart is adding more robust data to its online medical cannabis marketplace to help doctors get comfortable prescribing the drug.

The Loblaw-owned (L.TO) pharmacy chain launched its Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart digital portal nationwide last December. Unlike recreational pot, medical cannabis is exclusively sold online. Shoppers Drug Mart offers products from a dozen licenced producers through its pot website.

Ken Weisbrod, the company’s vice president of business development, and a pharmacist by trade, sees better data as key to gaining the trust of doctors wary of prescribing cannabis, due to the unknowns compared to conventional pharmaceuticals with Drug Identification Numbers. 

“Cannabis is a combination of many different molecules in the plant, so doctors have to get their head around that,” he told Yahoo Finance Canada on Wednesday. “What we want to do for them is provide them with a much more robust look at the products that we offer.”

Shoppers is launching a new online portal for doctors on Thursday as part of a study led by the University Health Network aimed at matching patients with the right cannabis products. It will include detailed cannabinoid and terpene information designed to help medical professionals better understand the properties of pot strains.

Weisbrod said the process can be more complicated than simply determining the right product. Since licenced producers often source cannabis through third-party wholesale agreements, there can be variations from batch to batch. That’s a problem for doctors who demand consistency.

“There have been some patients who start therapy on cannabis, and it’s doing wonders for them. Then it doesn’t work in a couple of months. Part of that reason is, it might not necessarily be the same product that they were originally on,” he said. “That really isn’t the way of medicine.”

Last June, Shoppers announced a partnership with blockchain company TruTrace Technologies (TTT.CN) to oversee product consistency, quality and genetics throughout the supply chain from genome-to-patient with the goal of bringing medical cannabis closer in line with standards for other drugs.

“In Canada, we have roughly 85,000 physicians. Really a small cohort, less than 10 per cent, have really embraced cannabis,” Weisbrod said. “Having a change in the way physicians prescribe takes years. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Toronto-based Auxly Cannabis Group (XLY.V) sells to medical users through the Shoppers portal. Chief executive officer Hugo Alves said the additional data showcases his company’s testing and quality assurance measures for the doctors writing prescriptions.

“Now that science, innovation, and importantly research are becoming a more prevalent part of cannabis as a medicine, a trend that you will see is an absolute demand for increasing rigour in consistency and accuracy,” he said in an interview. “It’s raising the bar on standards throughout the entire industry.”

Weisbrod said Shoppers Drug Mart remains focused on the medical side of the cannabis business, and does not intend to pursue recreational sales. He declined to comment on the size of the company’s share of the Canadian medical market. 

As for next steps, Weisbrod hopes regulatory changes will soon allow medical cannabis to be offered in the company’s physical pharmacies.

“In 2022, they’ll look into the medical regime, and maybe they’ll open it up and put it in pharmacies,” he said. “Our hope is for patients to walk in and get cannabis like their other medications.”

Jeff Lagerquist is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jefflagerquist.

Medical Cannabis put to the test in first ever real-world evidence clinical trial led by UHN

Newswise — (Toronto – July 9, 2020) – Medical cannabis is finally being put under the microscope, in a first-of-its-kind real world evidence study led by Dr. Hance Clarke, Director of Pain Services, Toronto General Hospital, and a recognized leader in educating Canadians about chronic pain management and the risk factors of continued opioid use. 

The Medical Cannabis Real-World Evidence (MC-RWE) clinical trial will allow patients to select medical cannabis products that are tested, from seed straight through to packaging. Patients using the online portal created by Medical Cannabis by Shoppers, will know exactly what is in their product: how many milligrams of THC and cannabidiol are being consumed, and if it works for them, they can rely on the product being exactly the same, from batch to batch. 

“The challenge with the medical use of cannabis is that physicians and patients are unsure of the quality of products being consumed,” says Dr. Clarke. “For the first time we will have a national repository of data that can provide answers about the effectiveness of these products, to test their claims.” 

Patients in the MC-RWE clinical trial will have access to a wide range of products including dried flower, oil extracts, edibles, and, topical preparations through the portal, which is the online platform for the sale of medical cannabis by Canadian retail pharmacy chain, Shoppers Drug Mart. 

In an industry where standardization is still in its infancy, this study aims to give direction with the same rigour around medical cannabis that is demanded of any other pharmaceutical product. 

“Medical Cannabis by Shoppers is best placed to offer Canadians the reassurance of medical products that have been tested and validated,” says Ken Weisbrod, Vice President, Business Development/Cannabis Strategy, Shoppers Drug Mart. “Our development of a blockchain secured initiative, with TruTrace Technologies Inc., has now been integrated into an operational portal that will provide products with an immutable digital identity, that can capture everything from detailed chemistry down to its DNA.” 

Users of medical cannabis have long been vocal about its efficacy in treating chronic pain. Cannabis has also been championed as an alternative to opioids in the treatment of chronic pain. With anecdotal testimonies in abundance, Dr. Clarke, a key opinion leader in the pain management arena, knows that scientific data is necessary to help patients access alternative pain relief and test these assertions.    

“We need the evidence to help us in prescribing the appropriate validated product, at the right dose, for the right patient,” says Dr. Clarke. “Ensuring quality standards will allow physicians and their patients to be confident about using medical cannabis to treat a wide range of pain-related ailments.”

Dr. Clarke is a staff anesthesiologist, Director, Pain Services, Medical Director of The Pain Research Unit, and, Director of the Good Hope Ehlers Danlos Clinic, UHN.

 

Contacts for HCPs:

  1. For more information, go to the RWE website: mcrwe.ca
  2. Contact the study coordinator or PI at 416-340-4800 x4251 or email at mcrwe@uhn.ca.
  3. If you’re ready to sign on to the e-portal as a recruiting physician go to https://hcp-portal.shoppersdrugmart.ca/

 

Contact for Patients:

  1. For more information please speak to your  doctor to learn if you are eligible to participate or visit mcrwe.ca 

 

 

About University Health Network

University Health Network consists of Toronto General Hospital, recently ranked the #4 Hospital in the World according to Newsweek Magazine, and Toronto Western Hospital, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and the Michener Institute of Education at UHN. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source of discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. www.uhn.ca