By / September 19, 2022

New Zealand Approves First Locally Produced Medical Cannabis Products

Last week, New Zealand health authorities began allowing the use of locally produced medical cannabis products, ending patients’ reliance on imported products. In addition, the Ministry of Health allowed access to local medicines as of September 9, opening up a new opportunity for New Zealand cannabis producers and manufacturers.

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Medical Cannabis Laws in New Zealand

Under medical cannabis legalization laws in New Zealand, any licensed general practitioner can prescribe cannabis-based medicines to any patient to treat any health condition. But since 2017, only imported cannabis-based medicines have been approved for patient use.

“Until now, New Zealand patients could only be prescribed medical cannabis grown overseas, with the vast majority imported from Australia and Canada,” says Tim Aldridge, managing director of cannabis producer Puro New Zealand.

Puro New Zealand grows organic cannabis at its facility in the country’s south. Earlier this year, the company signed a five-year, multi-million dollar agreement to supply cannabis to Helius Therapeutics. This company manufactures cannabinoid-based medicines at its facility in East Auckland.

New Zealand Fulfills “National Ambition”

“In 2018, the legislative intent of Parliament around improving access was clear,” Doran said. “[We also] focused on getting cannabis-based medicines grown and manufactured locally. So this national ambition to better serve long-suffering Kiwi patients is finally a reality, and it’s exciting.”

“This is great news for many patients who have long sought legal access to New Zealand-grown and manufactured medical cannabis products,” Doran added.

Medicines approved for the New Zealand market

The Ministry has notified Helius Therapeutics of Health that two of its medicines have passed quality standards testing, a requirement before cannabis products can enter the market. New Zealand already has 35 cannabis companies across the country, with Helius Therapeutics being the largest in the nation.

Helius was the first medicinal cannabis company in New Zealand to obtain a GMP license to manufacture medicines in July 2021, bringing the first products to market three months later. The new products will be launched in New Zealand first before being rolled out internationally, with Europe and South America already identified as priority overseas markets for the company.

“Getting approval for medical cannabis products that are truly grown and manufactured in New Zealand is an important step for our industry,” said Doran. “Local patients and their advocates have fought long and hard for truly Kiwi products that are both high quality and cost-effective.”

Aldridge said his company had spent four years bringing its operations into compliance with government standards.

“It hasn’t always been a breeze,” Aldridge said. “Navigating this new industry, getting familiar with the regulatory regime, and growing to scale has been a daunting undertaking.”

Patients Will Soon Reap the Benefits

While the work of developing a local cannabis production infrastructure has not been easy, he says patients will soon reap the benefits. Locally produced cannabis-based medicines are expected to cost patients half as much as imported drugs.

“We’ve seen significant delays and disruptions in the availability of imported products as COVID continues to impact supply chains,” Doran said.” It’s disconcerting for patients and prescribers when products that make a difference in people’s lives are not available. Products that are fully grown and manufactured in New Zealand will help mitigate these issues.”

(Featured image by Kindel Media via Pexels)

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