Meet the UK executive and cannabis veteran, aiming to take on Europe and North America’s established industry titans.
Mitesh Makwana is the director of AltoVerde, a start up company looking to establish itself as one of the continent’s big players.
The race is on to put roots down in Europe with several countries expected to expand patient access in the coming years – and even open up adult use markets.
Huge companies from across the pond like Tilray, Aurora and Bedrocan have already got boots on the ground, buying up companies and starting operations in places like Denmark and Portugal.
AltoVerde is aiming to be the new kid on the block and wants to shake things up in an industry which it believes has gone from counter-culture to corporate.
Makwana told Cannabis Health: “It’s become a completely different scene. We know that there might be a view that us industry veterans aren’t ready to take on this new market but we just plan to get our heads down and get on with what we know best.
“We understand that there are big regulatory hurdles, but ultimately there is one goal: getting a good end product to consumers at a fair price.”
This team of ‘veterans’, some of whom have almost two decades experience in the industry, have been in the game since paraphernalia and souvenir seeds were the only way to make money out of cannabis in Europe.
But things are changing. The medical cannabis sector in Europe is forecast to explode over the next few years and companies set up and ready to go when liberalisation happens stand to make a fortune.
Makwana said: “The team and our roots set us apart from the rest of the industry.
“Many of the people involved with company have been active in this sector for several years, people who’ve spent years honing their expertise in cultivation, breeding, plantation management, clinical trials, chemistry and extraction.
“This plant has a lot of amazing properties and we’re passionate about unlocking them for consumers and patients.”
The company has already completed an initial funding round and is planning a private subscription to raise further capital in the near future.
Deals to begin two manufacturing operations in Europe, including a 10,000+ square metre cultivation plant in Macedonia, are nearing completion and the company has longer term ambitions to carry out its own clinical trials.
It’s early days but the company has set out a five-year growth plan and is targeting £13.1m in inward investment.
Makwana told Cannabis Health, AltoVerde, which is headquartered in the UK, will be involved from seed to distribution and will respond to change in the market and regulations.
He said: “We’re setting ourselves up to be able to adjust to the way market demands shift over the coming years.
“With our expertise we know we can satisfy demand from the medicinal and wellbeing markets.
“We’re positioning ourselves up to take advantage whichever way regulations go and however the market changes.
“With our experience we know we can change and adapt.”
New fully digital cannabis dispensary launches in UK
It aims to streamline the process through which cannabis patients can access their medicine.
A new fully digital medical cannabis pharmacy aims to improve the dispensing experience for UK patients.
A new digital dispensing solution has launched in the UK, with the aim of streamlining the process through which cannabis patients can access their medicine.
Through the new system, patients are able to schedule delivery to their home or office, with a 120-minute delivery service in London and Birmingham and next-day delivery across the UK.
Akanda subsidiary, CanMart, has partnered with digital pharmacy infrastructure Phlo Connect and Cellen Life Sciences to bring the project to life.
The process will be increasingly seamless for patients in the near future as Phlo Connect, Cellen and CanMart build additional digital interconnections, Akanda said.
Tej Virk, CEO of Akanda, said: “Akanda is committed to expanding access to high-quality products for anyone in need, and that is qualified in the United Kingdom, a growing market for medical cannabis.
“Phlo Connect and Cellen are the ideal partners to make this happen, combining the UK’s first fully digital pharmacy with a digital dispensing model that is easy to use, secure, and real-time.
“In the nascent UK medical cannabis market, patients currently suffer from excess friction as the prescription process, and last-mile delivery is disjointed.
“We firmly believe that our solution is the best way to satisfy patients and get our 1P and 3P-supplied medical cannabis in their hands quickly and conveniently, which will greatly improve the patient experience.”
The partnership with Phlo Connect builds on CanMart’s existing partnership with Cellen, a health tech company that provides treatment to chronic pain patients through Leva Clinic, as well as through partners including the NHS, and Boots UK.
The Leva Clinic, which is licensed and regulated by the Care Quality Commission, is one of the first fully digital pain clinics in the UK.
Cellen is also a medical cannabis supplier to Project Twenty21, the large-scale medical cannabis observational study monitored by Drug Science that aims to improve access to medical cannabis.
Adam Hunter, CCO of Phlo Connect commented: “We believe partnering with CanMart and Cellen will be a game-changer for medicinal cannabis patients here in the UK.
“By integrating with both CanMart and Cellen via our API-driven pharmacy platform, we believe that this partnership is the first truly end-to-end digital experience for medicinal cannabis patients in the UK.”
He added: “Our patients require access to new high-quality products without the friction and hassle of traditional dispensing services. This partnership is another example of our continuing efforts to build on our national, established relationships with the wider pharmaceutical community in innovative ways.
“We believe that CanMart’s access to high quality products as well as Phlo Connect’s extensive capabilities in dispensing will go a long way to helping our service to our patients.”
CiiTECH celebrates five years with five days of CBD offers
CiiTECH’s five-year birthday is a pivotal moment, the company said.
Cannabis healthcare company CiiTECH celebrates its fifth birthday and reflects on a turbulent half-decade for the CBD industry.
CiiTECH’s five-year birthday is a pivotal moment, the company said. After what has been one of the most turbulent times for the industry, the firm has achieved six months of stability. With new crypto projects on the horizon and new markets on the cards, the company is gearing up for a period of growth.
CBD is a tough industry to be in right now but that has never stopped CiiTECH CEO and founder, Clifton Flack, from driving the business through regulatory issues and the challenges of an increasingly saturated market.
“When we started the business in 2017 the market was approaching the peak of interest and excitement. Since then, alongside the hundreds of brands that have been born to compete with us, we’ve also faced monumental regulatory pressures and flip-flopping,” Flack said.
“We’re still here though, independent and with a bright future ahead as the coming year ahead brings settled regulations.”
After a stormy start to the year, the FSA delivered on their promise to roll out a framework by which products can be set on a supervised pathway to novel food authorisation. The market is now more difficult than ever to penetrate for new and emerging brands, however it gives established UK CBD companies like CiiTECH an advantage over international companies attempting to penetrate the UK market.
“In parallel, the industry and our peers have had a two year pandemic, Brexit supply chain disruptions and now a cost of living crisis set to put all previous volatilities to shame,” Flack added.
“Now more than ever, cannabis healthcare companies need to take our time, avoid the panic and focus on delivering quality products behind trusted brands that are built for the long term.”
Recently, CiiTECH investigated a stock market listing on the London Stock Exchange but the IPO did not come to fruition.
“As the CEO, I had to make an impossible decision,” Flack said.
“Amongst other things, the timing was just not right. Consumer sentiment and demands are volatile and we found the essence of our company getting lost in bureaucracy at a time when it should have been front of mind.
Yesterday, CiiTECH launched five promotions over five days to celebrate the anniversary of the company.
“As a revenue-driven business, CiiTECH would not be in the position it is today without its army of loyal Provacan customers, so we’re giving back to them the best way we know-how.
“With five days’ worth of promos and freebies to mark five years of success. Our Friday promo emails have become somewhat legendary among our customers but we have never done anything like this before.”
GPs should prescribe medical cannabis, says industry review
A new review has recommended the roll out of a national trial, permitting GPs to prescribe medical cannabis.
A new UK report has recommended the roll out of a national trial permitting GPs to prescribe medical cannabis.
GPs should be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK, according to a new review published on Monday 27 June.
Industry experts have recommended the roll-out of a national trial, which would see GPs permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicinal products, alongside specialist consultants.
The recommendation was published as part of the Hodges Review, commissioned by The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) and the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI).
The report, which aims to set out how the UK can be a world-leader in cannabinoid innovation, is set to be launched today (27 June) with a speech by MP George Freeman, the minister for science, research and innovation.
In the UK, GPs may prescribe as part of a ‘Shared Care’ agreement, under the direction of a doctor on the specialist register, but they are not permitted to initiate treatment themselves.
According to polling data, collected for the review from 1,500 individuals across the UK, between the 9-13th June, 2022, there was strong support for allowing all doctors, not just specialists, to prescribe cannabis as a treatment.
Two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) believe GPs should be allowed to prescribe medicinal cannabis and more than a third said they would trust their GP to prescribe it to them.
Among 20 recommendations made by the report, the authors suggest an “opt-in model” which would give GPs the option to consent to prescribing cannabis-based medicines and participating in data collection to help inform future guidelines.
In more than 50 countries worldwide where medical cannabis has been made legal GPs make up the majority of prescribers.
Almost a quarter (24 percent) said they would be willing to take on the role of prescribing and overseeing medical cannabis treatments and just under three quarters (73 per cent) were open-minded about having a more active role in the field.
Quoted in the Hodges Review, Hazel Neavyn-Neita, medical information lead, Althea Life UK and Ireland said: “The cost of supplying product to the UK is roughly 3.2 times higher than supplying product to Australia.
“Allowing GPs to prescribe and widening patient access may increase sales. It would also reduce the costs of consultations for private patients since they could see a GP rather than a specialist consultant. If volumes increase, companies will be able to reduce the cost of manufacture and shipping which will reduce the cost to the patient.”
Deepak Anand, principal of ASDA Consultancy Services, added: “By not allowing all GPs to prescribe, we’re effectively putting people into the black market, because people are going to try to access this whichever way they can… That is a serious and abject policy failure from a public health perspective by the government. Once we start to see GPs prescribing, you will see a real opening up of the industry in the UK.”
The report also highlighted the need to “take forward commitments” for coordinated data collection, suggesting that GP prescriptions could involve patient enrolment in a national registry to help gather real-world evidence.
Further recommendations include consulting with patient groups and police forces to introduce Home Office guidance for frontline officers to verify patients who have a valid prescription, and creating a single formulary of all available products in the UK to support doctors in prescribing with up-to-date information.
Attitudes towards medical cannabis
Among those polled, there was broad support for cannabis as a medical treatment.
One in five respondents said they personally know someone whose health has benefited from medicinal cannabis and 63 per cent would be supportive if a family member was taking it to address a health condition.
Only eight per cent said they would be “somewhat” or “very” opposed to it and almost one in seven people admitted that they have used cannabis for “health reasons” themselves.
Of those who had used cannabis for medicinal reasons (whether prescribed by a doctor or not), 90 per cent experienced positive benefits, including a fifth whose symptoms were “completely resolved”.
There was also recognition of a need to make cannabis medicines more accessible for patients in the UK, with 59 per cent of those polled believing that the government should help lower the cost of cannabis supplied by private clinics so more people can afford it.
A large majority (64 per cent) of respondents believe the government should do more to support scientific research into cannabis in the UK.
CBD vs Medical cannabis
Although public awareness of medicinal cannabis was lower than of CBD, the report found evidence to suggest that public levels of trust are generally higher.
When asked about CBD products, the most concerning thing for 43 per cent of respondents was if the product was synthetic and not from natural ingredients, or if the product was not tested for purity.
Those hesitant to try CBD said they would be most likely to try a product if there was more public information about CBD and how to take it and if the government made it clear that CBD was legal.
The report also claims that where young people are more open to the use of CBD, older people are more likely to report positive views towards medicinal cannabis.
By contrast, young people were more likely to think that medicinal cannabis is “not a serious clinical treatment”.
A total of 59 per cent of respondents believe that in 10 years time the medical benefits of cannabis would be more widespread and accepted.
You can download the full report here
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