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Cannabis capsules on prescription: Simplifying medical cannabis for patients and doctors

Grow Pharma explores the benefits of cannabis capsules for patients and doctors.



cannabis capsules
Columbia Care International launched solid-fill medical cannabis capsules in the UK earlier this year

Jabed Chowdhury, Medical Science Liaison at Grow Pharma explores the benefits of cannabis capsules for patients and doctors.

Following the announcement in April this year that Columbia Care International launched solid-fill medical cannabis capsules in the UK, a survey of doctors and patients who have been prescribed these capsules have shown some very promising early results.

The Columbia Care capsules aim to provide patients, some of whom are suffering from the most debilitating conditions, such as long-term chronic pain or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, but for whom other treatments have failed, with a one-shot, easy-to-take, medically-formulated dose of their required THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

Columbia Care International is part of Columbia Care, which has built an enviable reputation as one of the most respected and trusted medical cannabis companies in the U.S. Columbia Care International are now in the UK, Germany and other territories.  Founded as a healthcare company, Columbia Care has always valued accuracy, detail and data and they aim to deliver predictable products in the category.

UK patients and doctors have been calling for an easy-to-take cannabis-based medicinal product (CBMP) for quite some time and Columbia Care’s goal is to now fulfil this unmet medical need, with a range of THC and CBD dosing options for patients, including capsule-form, previously unavailable in the UK. 

Says Columbia Care’s CEO, Nicholas Vita: “Not only are most patients familiar with a capsule, but many will also see other benefits of this formulation. We are thrilled to see this product come to fruition in the UK and we are grateful to our partners for helping us achieve this goal.”

A recent study in the UK, and published in the British Medical Journal 1, estimates that approximately 28 million adults are affected by chronic or widespread pain, fibromyalgia or chronic neuropathic pain.  This represents one-third of the UK’s population. 

With such a significant statistic and one which is responsible for a major impact not just in people’s own lives, but in the UK’s economic productivity, through millions of lost working days through illness, addressing this urgent health requirement should be a public health priority.  For people’s well-being, the secondary health impacts of such debilitating illness can lead to a constellation of other conditions, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, feelings of loneliness and isolation, and a significant deterioration in the overall quality of people’s everyday lives.

Columbia Care’s mission is to help these patients, for whom other treatments just have not worked, with access to medical-grade formulated cannabis, prescribed by their doctor.

Cannabis capsules

So what formulations are available?  

In consultation with their doctor, patients may have a range of options available to them to obtain pharmaceutical-quality medical cannabis capsules.  Three different ratio dosages of THC:CBD are offered, THC dominant, balanced and CBD dominant.  The differing proportions of THC and CBD content formulations are designed to cater for different patient types with their own specific medical needs and so patients are advised to consult with their doctor on which formulation would be best to treat their specific condition.  The capsules are manufactured under the highest standards, by Columbia Care’s UK partner, IPS Pharma – a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer that is licensed by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and distributed by Columbia Care’s UK market access partner, Grow Pharma Ltd.

A small survey, recently conducted by Grow Pharma, to understand the experience of a handful of doctors and their patients who had been prescribed Columbia Care’s capsules, showed some very promising early results.  

The doctors found that capsules were well-tolerated by patients of all age groups – from those in their early ‘30s to those in their post-‘60s – and that it was easier for patients to maintain their dosing routine and compliance, compared to when they took oils or other types of product.

Patients reported that capsules have a neutral taste, and this avoided the need for them to adjust to any unfamiliar smells or tastes, as would be expected to be the case for other herbal cannabis products. 

Doctors found that it was easier to explain dosages when patients consumed these in capsule-form versus having to explain to patients how they should dose when taking oils. It also avoided the need for patients to measure out doses for themselves.

The patients themselves also found that capsules were also much easier to consume whilst they had the convenience of easily being able to transport the capsules around with them whilst going about their daily lives and whenever they needed to travel; there were fewer worries for patients when doing this, because there was no risk of spillage, whilst the risk of accidental over-dosing was minimised.

The benefit of oral consumption of a single dose capsule also proved beneficial, particularly for elderly patients, or those with dexterity and mobility problems (such as those with joint problems and rheumatoid arthritis), who found oils to be difficult to pour and measure – since capsules were able to be orally taken, as a fixed-dose medication, this was of great benefit to these more vulnerable patients.

With the gradually increasing adoption of medical cannabis by doctors and their patients in the UK, Columbia Care’s medical cannabis capsules offer a potentially valuable treatment alternative for those patients (and their prescribing doctors), for whom treatment has not been successful using opioids or other types of pain or symptom-relieving medication.

Hari Guliani, who heads Columbia Care’s UK operations explains: “The Columbia Care International approach to medicinal cannabis formulations is fundamentally oriented around the patient and their care. The capsules are exciting to us because they are so unremarkable as a formulation for carers and patients that it means they can be adopted easily in patients’ ordinary lives whether at home, in a care home or at work.”

These dosing options enable prescribing doctors to offer proven, cannabis-based medical solutions with the current degree of precision that was previously unavailable in the UK. When compared with other CBMP formulations, capsule-form cannabis medication has longer-lasting effects.  Data collected by Columbia Care, through its proprietary IMPACT RegistryTM database has shown in the demonstrated success in the US, by offering patients relief that lasts all night, or throughout their day. The database also shows that this formulation is preferred to other product types by certain groups of patients, especially those over the age of 65.

With such pioneering ambitions, together with the growing demand and proven health improvement impact, the overall future for medical cannabis is set to greatly expand in the UK. To this end, Columbia Care is working towards developing further formulations and more convenient ways by which patients can be administered medical cannabis. 

Guliani add:“We are currently prioritising the next formulation to introduce, and we’d welcome the opinions of healthcare professionals in identifying where they have the greatest need for their patients.”


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