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Canadian company working on topical cream containing medical marijuana

Growing flowers of cannabis intended for the medical marijuana market are shown at OrganiGram in Moncton, N.B., on April 14, 2016. Marijuana producers say the federal government's proposed legal-pot regime needs more details to clarify issues like permissible advertising and distribution. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ron Ward

Canadian medical marijuana patients could soon find themselves ditching the pipe, bong or vaporizer for a topical cream or an oral spray that contains the active ingredients of cannabis, according to the CEO of biotechnology company Delivra Corp.

There are a number of problems with the current methods of ingesting marijuana says Delivra’s Joseph Gabriele.

Smoking it can be bad for the lungs, while edibles can take an hour or even longer to take effect, says Gabriele.

That’s why Delivra decided to start looking into using their existing transdermal drug delivery system, which allows drugs to be absorbed through the skin, for medical cannabis.

The company has partnered with ARA-Avanti Rx Analytics Inc. and Dosecann Inc. to develop the product and is aiming to launch it in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Gabriele first founded Delivra a decade ago when his wife had suffered nerve damage after having a bone tumour removed from her cheek area.

“The doctors were putting her on OxyContin, the opioid, and it was making her sick,” says Gabriele. “So the doctor that we were working with said, ‘Maybe you can come up with a transdermal — something through the skin that can bypass the stomach to relieve all of those bad side effects.'”

Gabriele teamed up with a formulation chemist to develop a transdermal drug delivery system and, shortly after, quit his job as an assistant professor of psychiatry at McMaster University to create Delivra.

The company went public on the TSX Venture Exchange about a year ago, and last month announced the partnership with Dosecann and Avanti to develop a cannabis product.

Dosecann founder Greg Boone says he’s in talks with about half a dozen licensed medical marijuana producers and applicants who are interested in the topical.

The product, which will be for medical and not for recreational use, aims to address the desires of doctors for a product that provides a predictable outcome, said Boone.

“After speaking to various stakeholders, it became very evident very early that one thing that clinicians were looking for was to have product being dispensed like they would dispense any other controlled substance, which is in a dose format,” says Boone.

The topical could be used to treat a host of medical conditions including sleep, anxiety and pain.

Gabriele says it could provide a less addictive alternative to opioids.

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