Is the competition for medical cannabis starting? At the end of September, the Colombian Khiron Life Sciences began the commercial sale of this therapeutic product at Farmacia Universal, thus becoming the first company to sell it in the private Peruvian channel (with a prescription).
Until then, says Dorothy Santiago, founder of the group Looking for Hope, the sale of this medicine was limited to the pharmacy of the General Directorate of Medicines, Supplies and Drugs (Digemid), which had been supplied with “a large batch that finished very quickly”.
“Then COVID-19 arrived and the situation got worse”, He adds.
Santiago is one of thousands of Peruvian mothers who have found in medicinal cannabis a relief to the ailments of their children, be it epilepsy, autism, Parkinson’s, cancer or multiple sclerosis.
For this reason, the news that there is already a pharmacy that sells this product, such as Universal, “qthat everyone knows and that everyone can access”Is a good thing, he remarks.
In fact, Farmacia Universal and Khiron are the first, but not the only companies that plan to commercialize medicinal cannabis with in Peru.
According to surgeon Max Alzamora, president of the Canaboniode Peruvian Association of Medicine, there would be more getting ready to hit the market in the coming days.
This is the case of QF Farmacia Magistral and Cannabis & Co., a company – the latter – that plans to become a ‘dispensary’ of medicinal cannabis, that is, an establishment specialized in the import and sale of different varieties and brands of this therapeutic product.
To these would be added the Peruvian laboratory Cannfarm, which would be bringing the Uruguayan medicinal cannabis Eprifractan, the only pharmaceutical grade, next week. In total, there would be 14 pharmacies with immediate plans.
“The market is developing – Alzamora notes – But it still cannot be said that Peru has all the cannabiniodes (chemical compounds that define the properties of cannabis) or that all patients are benefiting. For that, there is a long way to go”.
Missing? Both Khiron and the other companies that are preparing to commercialize medical cannabis are starting with the basics: the sale of products rich in CBD or cannabidiol, which is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis.
Luis Márquez, CEO of the Colombian company, explains that CBD helps control the symptoms of neurological diseases such as refractory epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and anxiety.
However, it does not cover other pathologies, such as chronic pain, the sequelae of chemotherapies, or certain forms of epilepsy, such as that suffered by Dorothy Santiago’s son.
For all this, the solution is products rich in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis, which is not yet sold in the country.
EL FACTOR THC
“It happens that there are patients with different diagnoses. Some need CBD and others THC, like my son. That is why we encourage the personal or associative self-cultivation of cannabis or that pharmacies sell both products”, Says Dorothy Santiago.
Why is THC not marketed in the country? Is it that the law prohibits it?
According to Alzamora there is no legal impediment. In his understanding, the reason why medicinal cannabis rich in THC (1% or more) is not sold is because it is more regulated than CBD and because it is difficult to bring it to Peru.
“Law No. 3068 (which regulates the medicinal and therapeutic use of cannabis) states that the doctor is the one who decides. The only distinction he makes between CBD and THC is that the former requires a simple prescription from the doctor and the latter requires a controlled prescription, like the one used for morphine, ”he explains.
Import is another barrier. For example, the USA does not market or export cannabis with more than 0.3% THC, while countries that do have a higher grade, such as Canada and Israel, sell it very expensively. However, there is a possibility that Colombia will export THC-rich cannabis at a better price in the coming months.
This opens up new opportunities for Khiron. The Colombian is currently selling CBD-rich magisterial formulas through Farmacia Universal, but is preparing to expand this offer.
“Apart from the magisterial formulas, we are going to commercialize THC derivatives and we hope that the Peruvian regulation opens to bring cannabis products focused on the cosmetic industry, for example, where we have our Kuida line, which improves the condition of the skin”, Says Luis Márquez.
MARKET ON THE RISE?
The prospects for the development of a medical cannabis market in Peru are very promising.
Only the Digemid registers more than 7,700 active users in its database, a number that will undoubtedly grow, as the Peruvian population overcomes the fears that its use generates and its spectrum expands to other diseases.
Dorothy Santiago recalls that many parents were afraid to register in Digemid, when the government opened this door to provide medical cannabis (with a prescription) to the population that needed it in 2018.
“There is a lack of many people who did not register, nor are cancer patients, who are waiting for the commercialization of THC”, He says.
For this reason, Marquez highlights the importance of bringing reliable information on the existence of legal cannabis products to patients in Peru.
“Our goal is to amplify, democratize and dignify the use of non-recreational cannabis. Because it is a complementary therapy that can support doctors in their daily work”, It indicates.
To support this, Khiron has developed a free virtual training program for physicians in collaboration with the Tecnológico de Monterrey, which has trained 1,500 professionals, 200 of them Peruvians.
In Alzamora’s opinion, the Peruvian medical community has made great strides in accepting cannabis as a therapeutic method thanks to the joint work of the private sector and academia.
“For example, we have just finished a training course of the Peruvian Society of Neurology with the Society of Cannabis Cliniacians of the USA and the Cannfarm Laboratory, where there have been more than 150 Peruvian doctors and health professionals from more than 15 countries”He comments.
In his opinion, this provides reassurance to Peruvian doctors that “nothing bad will happen”For prescribing medical cannabis. “On the contrary, it is quite safe, as long as it is prescribed and monitored by a doctor. There is no lethal dose. They are myths that are breaking”, He assures.
With all this in mind, it is projected that by 2028 the medical cannabis market in Peru should be around US $ 100 million.
However, this expectation may be overshadowed by an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture (Minagri) that would have adverse consequences for the competitiveness of the nascent medical cannabis sector.
According to the Peruvian Association of Cannabis Industries (Asopecanna), Minagri seeks to eliminate the distinction between CBD and THC, in such a way that both are classified as psychoactive. This would imply that CBD is also subject to very strict controls, which would discourage its offer and make the product more expensive.
Today, Digemid sells the 10 milliliter bottle at S / 47.7, while Khiron and Farmacia Universal sell the 30 and 50 milliliter bottles at S / 215 and S / 472, respectively. In the informal market, for its part, the 10-milliliter bottle can cost S / 200.
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