Clinical cannabis based product offerings by Tilray

Tilray product information guide

Canadian organisation Tilray is a global leader in medical cannabis research and production. Its product lineup consists of dried flower medicinal marijuana, which is available only to patients in Canada; and medical cannabis extracts, which are available in Canada and exported to international markets in Croatia, Australia and New Zealand.

It’s only in very recent months that New Zealand doctors have begun prescribing Tilray products, following a letter sent by Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne to medical authorities around the country. The letter contained a list of cannabis-based medicinal products that, based on Mr Dunne’s recommendations, local doctors should consider prescribing to patients.

Two Tilray products are on this list.

As New Zealand doctors, lawmakers and citizens continue to inch closer toward accepting cannabis as a legitimate form of medicine, it’s all but inevitable that the number of Kiwis using Tilray products increases over the months and years ahead.

With this in mind, we’ve rounded up all the information medical marijuana patients in New Zealand may require to make an informed decision about Tilray products. Find out what Tilray products contain, get informed about some of the research Tilray is doing and learn how you can go about getting a prescription.

The usual caveat applies: we are not doctors. While Tilray products are produced to the highest standard of quality and are used safely by thousands of peoples around the world without problem, they might not necessarily be right for you. In the interests of your health and wellbeing, we strongly recommend talking things over with a medical specialist before seeking a Tilray prescription.

What is Tilray?

As touched on, Tilray is a Canadian organisation at the vanguard of cannabis research and production. Thanks to the company’s stringent manufacturing processes, Tilray became the first medical cannabis producer in North America to become Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certified (a pharmaceutical quality control system that ensures products are consistently produced and controlled to a certain standard).

“GMP certification is the most rigorous standard that manufacturers of medical products must meet in their production processes, and it provides regulators and health care providers in countries new to medical cannabis with certainty that Tilray products are the safe and smart choice,” commented Tilray Chief Science Officer Joshua Eades.

This certification paves the way for Tilray to delve further into clinical research on the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis. It’s also what allows the company to now legally export its cannabis-based products here to New Zealand, where most other forms of cannabis remain illegal.

You can get further insight into Tilray’s research and development operations in the following YouTube video from Tilray Canada:

Which Tilray products are available in NZ?

Tilray cultivates and distributes 20 strains of sativa, indica and hybrid cannabis products. However, as a Kiwi patient, you probably aren’t going to be seeing these plants in their raw form any time soon.

The New Zealand government maintains a strong prohibitionist stance on unprocessed cannabis, perhaps partly due to the fact that it’s all but impossible to standardise the cannabinoid content of raw cannabis leaf and flower. Standardisation is critical in medicine as it means that the content and concentration of every dose is exactly the same, which helps reduce the risk to patients and maintain a high level of product quality.

So, instead of raw cannabis leaf and flower, New Zealand patients have access to two of Tilray’s medical cannabis extract products: CBD Max and TN-CT11G (hereafter referred to as Tilray 1:1).

-CBD Max

As the name implies, CBD Max largely consists of cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid with low psychoactivity and a wide range of potential medical applications. CBD max is made up of 98% CBD.

A 2013 review (of mostly preclinical studies) published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that CBD may have a role to play in the treatment of a number of conditions, including:

  • Neuroinflammation
  • Epilepsy
  • Oxidative injury
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia

-Tilray 1:1

Tilray 1:1 contains the cannabinoids CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in equal measure. THC is the cannabinoid largely responsible for the high associated with marijuana use, but research demonstrates that it also has a variety of medical applications. A meta analysis of current research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that THC may be useful for treating:

  • Chronic pain
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Sleep disorder
  • Spasticity due to multiple sclerosis
  • Appetite loss

If you have one of the above conditions and have found conventional treatments to be ineffective, talk to your doctor or medical specialist to see if Max CBD or Tilray 1:1 could be right for you.

How do I use Tilray medical cannabis products?

All Tilray cannabis extract products come packaged with an equivalency factor chart, but this is only really useful for calculating your monthly allocation – it is not particularly helpful for working out individual doses.

So, how much should you take?

Well, as with many other cannabis-based products, it’s difficult to give a precise recommendation of dosage size and frequency. Optimal amounts can differ drastically from person to person depending on the severity of your condition, how much you’ve eaten recently, your sensitivity to cannabis and other factors that comprise your unique biological makeup.

However, there is something both we and Tilray recommend with absolute certainty: start low and go slow.

Unlike combustible forms of cannabis consumption (joints, vaporizers, water pipes, etc), extracts are processed through the liver, meaning you’ll probably be waiting significantly longer to feel the effects. Therefore, if you’re a newcomer to Tilray products, you should start with a tiny dose, wait 90 minutes (and possibly even longer) and gauge how you’re feeling before even considering taking another dose. The first few times you use Tilray products (Tilray 1:1 in particular), do so in a calm environment under the guidance of someone you trust until you become more familiar with the effects.

It may take some time to settle on a dose size and schedule that is right for your body. Take it slow, track your results and talk things over with your doctor. As with any type of medicine, cannabis based or otherwise, always follow your doctor’s instructions and never exceed their recommended doses.

Who should not use Tilray products?

Tilray’s methods of production are among the best in the industry, and its products have improved the quality of life of people all over the planet. However, as is the nature of medicine (and cannabis-based medicine even more so), there’s always a risk that CBD Max and/or Tilray 1:1 may not be the best option for you.

You should avoid Tilray products if:

  • You or your immediate family members have a history of mental illness, including depression and schizophrenia.
  • You are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant in the near future.
  • You are breast feeding.
  • You are allergic to cannabis, cannabis extracts, or any of the ingredients found in CBD Max or Tilray 1:1.

How can I get a prescription for Tilray products in New Zealand?

While the government has loosened the laws surrounding the medical cannabis application process, you’ll still need to jump through quite a few hoops before you can obtain a prescription for CBD Max or Tilray 1:1.

You may need to:

  1. Exhaust traditional treatment methods.

How much do Tilray products cost?

As it stands, there is not a single medicinal cannabis product in New Zealand that is funded  by Pharmac, the government agency that decides which medicines should be subsidised. This means that if you want a prescription for CBD Max or Tilray 1:1, you’re going to have to pay full price – about $600 per month.

At this price point, there’s no denying that a prescription for Tilray products is going to put financial strain on many Kiwi patients, especially those whose ability to work is impacted by their health condition. Relatively speaking, however, CBD Max and Tilray 1:1 are actually quite competitively priced when compared with similar medical cannabis products. For example, Sativex, formerly New Zealand’s only medical cannabis option, costs around $1,200 a month.

Of course, the price of Tilray products may change in the years head. Speaking with the Sunday Star Times, Pharmac Director of Operations Sarah Fitt noted that “Pharmac has not been asked to review Tilray, but would welcome an application for funding should it be registered by Medsafe.” This indicates at least a possibility that CBD Max and Tilray 1:1 may one day be a subsidised and more affordable medicine.

Studies

Because Tilray has only recently obtained its GMP certification, there are very few publicly available studies on specific Tilray products. However, the company is now making up for lost time and is currently leading three clinical trials in partnership with world-leading hospitals and universities.

The first study, run in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, seeks to investigate the potential of medical cannabis as a means of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. The largest medical cannabis clinical trial to take place in Canada in 40 years, principal investigator Zach Walsh hopes the “… trial will allow us to build on the anecdotal evidence supporting the potential use of medical cannabis to treat PTSD and … help those who struggle with this debilitating condition.”

The second study, this one carried out in partnership with the University of Sydney, aims to develop a novel treatment for the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Researchers will be trialling a new antiemetic product using a proprietary capsule formulation developed by Tilray.

The third study sets out to investigate an under-explored and somewhat controversial topic: can children safely use medical cannabis? Run in conjunction with The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the research will analyse the safety and tolerability of cannabis-based medicine for children with treatment-resistant epilepsy.

We look forward to seeing the results of these studies and we’re excited to see how New Zealanders benefit from Tilray’s cannabis-based medical products in the years ahead.

Information on the application process for Tilray products in New Zealand is not currently available, we have used the Sativex application process as a guide.