Ganja coming in allergy-type drops 'by July'

GPO says first crop will require clinical trials

The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation says it is ready to deliver medicinal cannabis products. (GPO photo)

The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) said on Thursday it is ready to deliver medicinal cannabis products in the form of sublingual — or under-the-tongue — drop to hospitals nationwide by the end of July.

The GPO, a Thai state enterprise that manufactures pharmaceutical products, has been authorised by the Ministry of Public Health to grow cannabis and conduct research into ways of developing related medicines.

This came about after the government acknowledged the legitimacy of evidence showing the outlawed substance can have health-enhancing properties.

The state body also previously sought to initiate a legal amendment that would permit marijuana to be used for medicinal use and research.

Later in December the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) passed the second and third readings of an amendment to the narcotics law legalising the production, import, export, possession and use of cannabis — and kratom — products for medical purposes.

Sophon Mekthon, chairman of the GPO’s board committee, gave a press briefing on Thursday informing the public of his confidence in the GPO's ability to deliver the medicinal cannabis products to hospitals within the next two and a half months.

Dr Sophon said the body has already planted the country’s first-ever medical-grade cannabis plants and they will be harvested within 12 weeks. This should be enough to produce 12,500 millilitres of the sublingual drops, he noted.

He said the first batch of 2,500 bottles, each containing 5ml of drops, would be given to patients participating in a clinical test to determine how effective they are, and hospitals that have made purchase orders.

"We won't be directly selling them the public," Dr Sophon said, stressing the GPO would comply with all Thai regulations.

Only 170 doctors trained by the ministry on how to use the medicinal cannabis products will be allowed to prescribe the medicines to patients, Dr Sophon said.

He said the sublingual drops can be used to treat patients who suffer from epilepsy, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson's, and some of the side effects of chemotherapy. A number of respected studies have confirmed their efficacy in this regard, he said.

The GPO has planted 140 cannabis plants using foreign strains in a closed, indoor system under strict supervision following Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), he said, adding they are all of medical-grade standard.

With the goal of creating multiple-ailment treatments, the GPO has picked three strains with equally high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive substance that produces the “high” associated with smoking marijuana — and cannabidiol (CBD), which studies show can treat conditions like pain, insomnia, and anxiety, he said. 

The plants are being grown on a 100-square-metre plot at the GPO's office in Pathum Thani’s Tanya Buri district.

GPO director Withoon Danwiboon said the next crop is expected to be grown at the same scale within four months. After that, production could jump six-fold, he said.

Speaking about the third phase of planting, he said the agency has selected a location in Saraburi province to grow cannabis in greenhouses at commercial scale.

The GPO will study ways of subcontracting to farmers and other community enterprises to support scaling, he said, adding 40 tonnes of cannabis is expected to be required each year.

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