New Zealand approves first locally made medical cannabis products

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Last week, New Zealand health authorities began allowing the use of locally produced medical cannabis products, ending patients’ reliance on imported products. The Ministry of Health has authorized access to local medicines from September 9, opening up a new opportunity for New Zealand cannabis producers and manufacturers.

Under New Zealand’s medical cannabis legalization laws, any licensed GP can prescribe cannabis-based medicine to any patient to treat any medical condition. But since 2017, only imported cannabis medicines were approved for use by patients.

“Until now, New Zealand patients could only be prescribed medical cannabis grown overseas, with the vast majority imported from Australia and Canada,” says Tim Aldridge, managing director of cannabis producer Puro. New Zealand.

Puro New Zealand cultivates organic cannabis in its facilities in the South of the country. Earlier this year, the company signed a five-year, multimillion-dollar deal to supply cannabis to Helius Therapeutics, a company that manufactures cannabinoid medicines at its facility in East Auckland.

“In 2018, Parliament’s legislative intent around improving access was clear,” Doran said. ” [Nous nous sommes] also strived to obtain both locally grown and locally manufactured cannabis-based medicines. This national ambition to better serve long-suffering Kiwi patients is finally a reality and it’s exciting. »

“This is great news for many patients who have long sought legal access to medical cannabis products grown and manufactured in New Zealand,” Doran added.

Medicines approved for the New Zealand market

Helius Therapeutics has been notified by the Department of Health that two of its drugs have passed quality standards testing, a requirement before cannabis products can enter the market. New Zealand already has 35 cannabis companies across the country, with Helius Therapeutics being the nation’s largest.

Helius was the first medicinal cannabis company in New Zealand to obtain a GMP license for the manufacture of medicines in July 2021, bringing the first products to market three months later. The new products will first be launched in New Zealand before being rolled out internationally, with Europe and South America already identified as priority overseas markets for the company.

“Getting approval for medical cannabis products that are genuinely grown and manufactured in New Zealand is an important milestone for our industry,” Doran said. “Local patients and their advocates have fought long and hard for truly kiwifruit products that are both high quality and cost effective. »

Aldridge said his company spent four years bringing its operations up to government standards.

“It hasn’t always been easy,” Mr. Aldridge said. “Navigating this new industry, getting to grips with the regulatory regime, and cultivating at scale has been a massive undertaking. »

Although the work of developing local cannabis production infrastructure has not been easy, he says patients will soon reap the rewards. Locally produced cannabis medicines are expected to cost patients half the cost of imported medicines.

“We have seen significant delays and disruptions in the availability of imported products as COVID continues to impact supply chains,” Doran said. It’s confusing to patients and prescribers when products that make a difference in people’s lives are not available. Products grown and manufactured entirely in New Zealand will help alleviate these problems. »

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