116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Achieving 'harmony' and 'calm' in trying to cope with agonizing pain and disease soon will come in pill form.
MedPharm Iowa of Des Moines, the first of two state licensed medical marijuana manufacturers to come online, Wednesday presented the cannabidiol products that will be legally available to Iowans in the state's expanded medical marijuana program.
In meeting with reporters at the Des Moines manufacturing facility, MedPharm officials said the development of these products — called 'calm,' 'soothe,' 'harmony' and 'comfort' — is a major first step in the program.
However, officials also worry the state's tight controls on the program may limit its success.
Lucas Nelson, general manager of outsourcing services for Kemin Industries, MedPharm Iowa's lead consultant, equated that concern to the number of patient applications to obtain a medical cannabidiol registration card, which allows patients and caregivers to legally possess marijuana products.
So far, Nelson said the state health department has approved more than 500 registration cards and received an additional 500 applications.
'If those numbers don't grow, does it demonstrate there are too many hurdles in the state right now?' he asked. 'What we've been concerned about is that if this ultimately fails, that means no patients are benefiting from this.'
The state also has issued a license to a second manufacturer, Iowa Relief LLC, a subsidiary of New Jersey-based Acreage Holdings. Plans to construct the manufacturing plant in the southwest quadrant of Cedar Rapids are underway.
Wednesday's announcement from MedPharm comes less than two months before the Dec. 1 date its products will be available to Iowans whose conditions legally qualify for medical marijuana treatment.
The state has awarded licenses to five dispensaries that will sell the products — first MedPharm's, and then also Iowa Relief's — to consumers. The products won't be covered by insurance, so patients will have to pay out of pocket.
The medical marijuana initially will be available in three products: creams, capsules and tinctures. MedPharm's prices have not yet been determined, but are expected to range between:
• Creams — $65-$85
• Tinctures — $50-$130
• Capsules — $30-$130
Stephen Wilson, manager of two dispensaries that will be operated by MedPharm, said during the presentation that officials have developed four formulations, each with variant levels of cannabidiol, or CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
THC offers more painkilling properties while CBD is an anti-inflammatory chemical, Wilson said. Each formulation is based on results a patient might need. These formulations are based on ratios:
• 20 CBD to 1 THC
• 2 CBD to 1 THC
• 1 CBD to 1 THC
• 1 CBD to 20 THC
Not each product has all four variations creams, for example, are only in the 2:1 ratio.
The higher concentrations of CBD are meant for seizures, Crohn's disease or Parkinson's disease. A balanced formula of CBD and THC offers benefits for AIDS and HIV patients, or those with ALS and MS. The formula containing a higher level of THC can be used to treat symptoms of terminal illnesses or cancer.
The dosing will be determined between the patient and a consultant employed at the dispensaries, who will be versed in cannabis treatment and can collaboratively determine the best product and the daily amount, Wilson said.
Generally, one bottle will equal one month's supply for the average patient, Nelson said.
'It will depend, obviously, one each individual, but I think for most people, a bottle of tincture or a container of capsules will last them roughly around a month,' Nelson said. 'Now, for some who need to take higher doses it may only last two weeks. For those who don't need as much, it could last several months.'
State law caps the levels of THC in each product at 3 percent, a requirement that Nelson said may force some patients who need a higher THC concentration — such as those with cancer or a terminal illness — to purchase more product each month.
Nelson said the highest amount of THC is in its 1 CBD to 20 THC formulation capsules: 20 milligrams of THC in each container of 30 capsules. If a patient needs 140 milligrams of THC a day, that equates to seven pills.
'That's really how it's going to rear its head,' he said. 'If you're taking that many a day to get your dose, you can see quickly you're going to be buying more and it's going to make it expensive for those patients.'
Nelson added, 'If we had the space to create a pill that had more (THC) milligrams in it, we can get that down to two pills, or three pills, or one pill.'
MedPharm dispensaries also will offer trial capsules for patients, each containing between three to six pills and allowing patients to try various formulations without committing to a full month's supply. They will cost between $10 and $25 each.
According to state law, only those people with certain qualifying conditions will be able to purchase products from the five dispensaries across Iowa. Qualifying conditions include untreatable pain, cancer, a terminal illness or seizures.
MedPharm's products will be available in all the dispensaries, which are located in Davenport, Waterloo, Windsor Heights, Council Bluffs and Sioux City.
MedPharm manages the dispensaries in Sioux City and Windsor Heights, in addition to the manufacturing facility in Des Moines.
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