GPO inks medical pot research deal
Agency sees demand being met in 3 years
published : 30 May 2019 at 19:11
writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) has signed an agreement with the Department of Medical Services (DMS) to cooperate in medical marijuana research and development, which is expected to help boost domestic production capacity to meet demand from patients.
After the signing, the GPO said it is "confident" it will be able to produce sufficient marijuana-based medicines to meet demand within three years.
GPO's director, Dr Withoon Danwiboon, said the GPO can produce up to 10,000 five-millilitre bottles a year.
"After 2021, the agency is expecting its output to increase by eight times as we aim to scale up production from our 1,000-square-metre plantation," he said, adding that the GPO will begin to sign farm contracts with licenced growers to ensure it has access to enough raw cannabis to produce the medicines.
"By next year, we should be able to figure out the demand in order to make an effective plan to help limit the amount of cannabis we import," Dr Withoon said.
He said the import taps must remain open at least for now because Thailand still needs to bring in cannabidiol (CBD) from abroad.
CBD is one of the active ingredients in marijuana extracts. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — which is responsible for marijuana's psychoactive properties — CBD has many applications in medicine.
"But most Thai marijuana strains contain more THC than CBD, which makes them more suitable for recreational use," said Dr Withoon.
The cabinet on Tuesday approved the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) regulations on cannabis imports for medical purposes. The agency had previously said imports will continue until local supplies are sufficient to meet the growing demand.
About 50,000 patients applied for an amnesty and registered with the FDA to use marijuana for medical purposes — but only about 20% met the criteria set by the government.
Dr Somsak Akksilp, chief of the Department of Medical Services, said he wants all patients to have access to cannabis-derived drugs, so the department will cooperate with Maejo University in Chiang Mai to grow marijuana plants.
"It must be noted that for us, growing marijuana is not the end goal," said Dr Somsak. "Mainstreaming the medications so we can treat more patients is our priority."