Less than a month since listing on the ASX, medicinal cannabis company Althea Group (ASX: AGH) has reported that its products are now in the hands of 100 patients, following the launch of five products in the Australian market in May 2018.
Althea made its ASX debut in September this year and received strong investor interest that saw its shares commence trading at around 55 cents per share – significantly higher than the 20 cents mark that it offered in the initial public offering.
At the time, the company said it intended to deploy more than $10 million towards building a 3-tonne-per-year growing facility in Skye, Victoria.
According to Althea, its 100-patient milestone signifies a growing presence in Australia’s medicinal cannabis market driven by improvements in patient access to medicinal cannabis products – a strategy the company is openly supporting by educating and supporting doctors to become prescribers and pharmacists to become “suppliers”.
“We’re focusing our efforts on educating mainstream doctors such as GPs, to truly open up access to medicinal cannabis for everyday Australians. While it’s great to see such a strong uptake, our work has only just begun,” said Joshua Fegan, CEO of Althea Group.
“Industry reports suggest that there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who may be eligible patients for medicinal cannabis,” added Mr Fegan.
Althea says its strategy is to promote a nationwide “patient first approach” in Australia with existing regulatory agencies supporting medicinal cannabis proliferation on the back of softening legislation and a realisation that the long-forgotten plant has a place in modern medicine.
Just yesterday, Canada became only the second country in the world (and the first major Western economy) to legalise recreational cannabis as further confirmation that cannabis legalisation is becoming a globally significant phenomenon, strongly backed by doctors in various medical fields.
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provides special pathways for doctors to apply for and prescribe medicinal cannabis, including the Special Access Scheme B (SAS B) and Authorised Prescriber (AP) status.
In April this year, Australian authorities softened existing prohibitive laws that prevent patients from accessing cannabis-based products. A few months earlier, the Australian Federal Government announced it would permit exports of Australian manufactured medicinal cannabis products while also signing off on Australia’s first legal medicinal cannabis imports which first hit Australian shores in 2017.
According to Althea, 37 doctors that prescribed its products utilised the SAS B application pathway, whilst 5 doctors were able to obtain AP status with Althea’s support.
With the tide (and public stigma) gradually changing towards the use of cannabis as a viable medicine, several countries including Australia, Canada and the US are actively moving towards providing medicinal cannabis products available to millions of patients.
General practitioners, medical specialists and psychiatrists have now provided 100 patients with approval to access Althea’s medicinal cannabis products for a range of conditions – a clear sign that Australian doctors are keen to adopt cannabis-based treatments for a variety of both physical and mental ailments.
Althea says its products can be dispensed to patients through a network of more than 250 pharmacies across Australia with the company looking to obtain a commercial advantage by specifically selecting those pharmacies that are located near to its prescribing doctors.
Earlier this month, Althea signed a distribution agreement with renowned medicinal cannabis wholesale and distribution business, Health House International.
“In the past, a lack of awareness coupled with the lengthy application processes for prescribers has made it difficult for eligible patients to access medicinal cannabis. Getting our medical science liaison team members in front of medical practitioners to provide education and showing how it can be done efficiently through our web platform Althea Concierge, is really hitting home,” said Mr Fegan.
“We don’t want people who could benefit from medicinal cannabis to be inconvenienced through a lack of knowledge. It doesn’t have to be a grey area and we envisage a world where patients can talk confidently with their existing doctors about medicinal cannabis,” he added.
This morning’s news left Althea shares trading at $0.535 per share, down around 1.8% on the day.