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Big plans for Little Green Pharma

Deborah Johnson reports the Australian firm hoping to help more UK patients benefit from medical cannabis.

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Australian medical cannabis producer Little Green Pharma recently became the first, and currently only, in its native country to bring locally-grown medical-grade products to market.

It is now plotting international growth, having recently exported medicinal cannabis products for patient use in the UK.  

The firm was initially established to help a family access cannabis whose child was suffering up to 70 seizures a day, after the substance was legalised in Australia in late 2016.

The company quickly built a reputation and market presence through its first mover advantage and its vision to develop a precision dosing methodology, which effectively optimises the cannabis needed to be consumed to achieve the same results.

It recently raised $10m to fuel its expansion after listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), Little Green Pharma – the first business to ever export Australian medicinal cannabis – is now looking at global opportunities.

Earlier this month it entered the UK market after securing an import and distribution partnership with Astral Health, a subsidiary of the LYPHE Group.

It is looking to export its cannabis medicines into Germany through its local import and distribution partners in the near future.

Expansion into Asia is cited as a longer-term ambition for the business as the market opens up.

As part of its ongoing growth, and to support the development of the market, Little Green Pharma is investing heavily in research into cannabis.

It is currently involved in research projects focusing on pain and PTSD, with more planned for the future to help increase levels of clinical data available on cannabis and its effects.

Managing director Fleta Solomon (pictured) says: “There is actually considerable evidence to support the use of medicinal cannabis in certain conditions with the industry having over 20 years of real-world data across multiple jurisdictions.

“As medicinal cannabis has only been legalised recently, Little Green Pharma is looking forward to doing double-blind placebo-controlled trials and gathering more evidence.

“We have achieved a huge amount since our inception having produced Australia’s first locally-grown cannabinoid medicines for patient use in just 18 months.

“We have now achieved the milestone of exporting Australia’s first cannabis medicines for the benefit of patients in the UK, and we are keen to build on that further.”

“We started small to achieve proof of concept, opting against looking for huge capital backing initially, and we have shown the world we can do what we set out to achieve.

“Through our ASX listing, that puts us in a strong position for growth with our existing capacity to produce 110,000 bottles of medicines annually.

“While we are called Little Green Pharma, the ambition is to be ‘Big Green Pharma’ and a known name on a global scale. 

“We have just come into the UK and the recent change in law which permits bulk orders will mean that in the near term we can bring our products in much greater quantities to UK patients. We will also be exporting into Germany imminently after securing three distribution agreements there.”

The unusual business name was chosen to help stand out in a fast-growing marketplace, explains Fleta, and to appeal to patients as a relatable resource, rather than a corporate manufacturer.

“We chose the name Little Green Pharma as we wanted to be different in the market and resonate with patients and families.

“We wanted to build a trusting brand where patients could call and speak to a human that cares. At Little Green Pharma we don’t just bottle the plant, we bottle hope,” she says.

“Our brand is focused on growing and producing full plant medicines without the use of pesticides, not a synthetic manufactured drug.

“We are conscious that a stigma does exist to some extent, as only a few years ago cannabis was a prohibited substance. 

“But we are committed to enabling as many patients as we can to access our medicines. We recognise that cannabis is not a panacea. It is not going to appeal to, or be able to help, everyone, but we believe medicinal cannabis has a huge role to play in the medical field.”

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CBD might help people quit using cannabis – study

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Prescription-grade CBD, which is much stronger than commercially available CBD, helped people quit cannabis, according to a new study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

Researchers recruited 82 people who had been diagnosed with moderately severe or severe cannabis use disorder, which is described as continued use of cannabis despite impaired psychological, physical, or social functioning.

All of the participants expressed a desire to cut down their cannabis use, and had tried to quit in the past.

They were either given prescription-grade CBD capsules – either 200mg, 400mg or 800mg of CBD – or placebo pills, to take every day for four weeks. T

They all also had a series of counselling sessions aimed at helping them stop using cannabis.

The researchers found that daily CBD doses of 400 and 800 milligrams both reduced the participants’ cannabis intake.

The study, which was funded by the Medical Research Council, could help more people quit using cannabis in an ‘acceptable treatment format,’ Tom Freeman,  psychopharmacology researcher at the University of Bath and co-author of the study, told Inverse.

Research has found that almost half of those who quit cannabis experience some withdrawal symptoms, which can include irritability, depressed mood, nausea, vomiting, aggression and disrupted sleep.

There are currently no treatments available for prescription that are deemed safe and effective.

 

 

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Study shows medical cannabis has potential to kill cancer cells

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New findings have raised the prospect of medical cannabis being used as a cancer treatment, rather than just as a relief medication.

Laboratory tests in Austraia have shown that a modified form of medicinal cannabis can kill or inhibit cancer cells without impacting normal cells.The significant outcome follows three years of investigations by cancer researcher Dr Matt Dun in collaboration with biotech company Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG), which produces a cannabis variety containing less than 1 per cent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the psychoactive component commonly associated with marijuana.

The plant, known as ‘Eve’, has high levels of the compound cannabidiol (CBD).

The study was conducted at the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute

“ANTG wanted me to test it against cancer, so we initially used leukaemia cells and were really surprised by how sensitive they were,” Dr Dun says.

“At the same time, the cannabis didn’t kill normal bone marrow cells, nor normal healthy neutrophils [white blood cells].

“We then realised there was a cancer-selective mechanism involved, and we’ve spent the past couple of years trying to find the answer.”

The Dun team has run comparisons between THC-containing cannabis, and cannabis lacking THC but with elevated levels of CBD. They found that, for both leukaemia and paediatric brainstem glioma, the CBD-enriched variety was more effective at killing cancer cells than THC varieties.

In a recent paper entitled “Can Hemp Help?”, released by international journal Cancers, Dr Dun and his team also undertook a literature review of over 150 academic papers that investigated the health benefits, side-effects, and possible anti-cancer benefits of both CBD and THC.

“There are trials around the world testing cannabis formulations containing THC as a cancer treatment, but if you’re on that therapy your quality of life is impacted,” Dr Dun says.

“You can’t drive, for example, and clinicians are justifiably reluctant to prescribe a child something that could cause hallucinations or other side-effects.

“The CBD variety looks to have greater efficacy, low toxicity and fewer side-effects, which potentially makes it an ideal complementary therapy to combine with other anti-cancer compounds.”

The next phase for the study includes investigating what makes cancer cells sensitive and normal cells not, whether it is clinically relevant, and whether a variety of cancers respond.

“We need to understand the mechanism so we can find ways to add other drugs that amplify the effect, and week by week we’re getting more clues.

“It’s really exciting and important if we want to move this into a therapeutic,” Dr Dun adds, stressing that CBD-enriched cannabis isn’t yet ready for clinical use as an anti-cancer agent.

“Hopefully our work will help to lessen the stigma behind prescribing cannabis, particularly varieties that have minimal side-effects, especially if used in combination with current standard-of-care therapies and radiotherapy.

“Until then, though, people should continue to seek advice from their usual medical practitioner.”

The study was funded by ANTG and HMRI through the Sandi Rose Foundation.

“We are very pleased to see three years of collaboration with UON and HMRI deliver such exciting findings in the fight against cancer. ANTG remains committed to its patient-centric mission of understanding the massive therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis,” Matthew Cantelo, CEO, Australian Natural Therapeutics Group, said.

“We thank Matt Dun and the team for such encouraging insights into anti-cancer properties of our Australian grown CBD strain, Eve. We are looking forward to moving forward to the next stage of the study and continuing to develop effective, safe and consistent cannabis medicines for Australian patients.”

Dr Matt Dun is from the University of Newcastle, researching in conjunction with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) Cancer Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

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How CBD is helping women with endometriosis

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Women around the world are increasingly using CBD to deal with the symptoms of endometriosis – a much misunderstood and misdiagnosed condition. Cannabis Health finds out more.

Endometriosis is the second most common gynecological condition in the UK, affecting around one in 10 UK women – although frequent misdiagnosis and a lack of understanding means this figure may be higher.

It happens when tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, which then reacts to the menstrual cycle each month and also bleeds.

However, there is no way for this blood to leave the body, causing inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.

Nobody knows what causes it, or why some women suffer and others don’t, and symptoms, including pain in the lower abdomen and back, nausea, intense fatigue and infertility, can be debilitating.

According to Endometriosis UK, it takes an average of seven and a half years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis, and the condition costs the UK economy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs.

There is currently no cure, and treatment is limited to painkillers, hormonal contraception, or surgery to cut away the scar tissue. In more severe cases, the only option may be a full hysterectomy to remove part or all of the affected organs.

But could there be another way? More and more women are turning to CBD to ease their symptoms, and the results are encouraging.

Charlotte Nichols, managing director of North East of England-based PR firm Harvey & Hugo, has been using a CBD oil for a couple of months, and has already noticed a difference in her symptoms.

She explained: “I was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2017 but I’d been suffering with it for three years before that; it took that long to diagnose as it was just put down to ‘just’ painful periods.

“I had surgery to remove it but still struggled with infertility, until I finally got pregnant in 2018. The symptoms disappeared while I pregnant and breastfeeding but then came back with a bang since – I’d forgotten how awful it was.”

After researching how CBD could help, Charlotte began taking the oil in June 2020, and the results have been significant.

She said: “While the CBD doesn’t stop the pain completely, it definitely helps take the edge of the symptoms.

“Stress and lack of sleep both make my symptoms worse, and the oil has definitely helped with this, helping me relax and dramatically improving my sleep.

“I’ve also found that the CBD has improved my mood, as feeling so rubbish all the time was getting me down. That might be the effect of the oil itself, or simply because it’s alleviating the symptoms    – either way, it’s making me feel more like myself again.”

While using CBD as a painkiller is nothing new, experts believe that its use for endometriosis may be down to more than simple pain relief.

Research has found that cannabinoids also help by:

  • Stopping the endometrial cells from multiplying
  • Preventing them from migrating to other parts of the reproductive system
  • Stopping the blood supply to the lesions – effectively starving them of the nutrients they need to grow
  • Regulating nerve growth
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Modulating the immune response
  • Desensitising the nerves that transmit pain.

In fact, some scientists believe that dysfunction in a woman’s endocannabinoid system – the molecular system responsible for regulating and balancing processes in the body, including immune response – may be behind endometriosis.

Dr Michele Ross, CEO of Infused Health, explains: “Reduced function of the endocannabinoid system leads to the growth of endometriosis throughout the body, and more pain.”

CB1 cannabinoid receptors mediate the pain from endometriosis and, according to a 2010 study, are present in the cells that supply nerve impulses to the endometrial growth.

However, the endometrial cells of women with endometriosis have been found to have a lower expression of CB1 receptors — so activating the few that are expressed is even more important for those in pain.

Whatever the science behind it, women like Charlotte are just pleased to finally have a natural product to alleviate their symptoms.

“I much prefer taking CBD to other painkillers, as I’m very aware of what I’m putting into my body and, as far as I’m concerned, the more natural the better,” she says.

“At the moment I’m just using the oil; I haven’t tried any other products, like the balms or lotions, but I’m going to look into it.

“I also find that exercise, intermittent fasting, avoiding alcohol and cutting down on sugar really helps my symptoms, in combination with the CBD. It’s been a long road, with a lot of trial and error along the way, but I’m so glad to finally feel in control of my body again.”

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