With recreational cannabis now legal in Canada, ensuring those thinking of using it for medical purposes – whether prescribed or self-medicated – have access to all the information they may need to make a decision on whether to use cannabis is crucial.
And this is exactly what Reformulary Group, a Toronto-based firm, is aiming to do with its new online platform, Cannabis Standard.
To determine eligibility for medical cannabis use, the platform puts the user through a series of questions, feeding the answers through a network of algorithms which have been reinforced with years of evidence from trials and studies, before ending with a determination of eligibility, as well as suggestions for strain or product type.
For those who would like to purchase medical cannabis, as opposed to self-medicating with recreational cannabis, the platform will generate a prescription form with a description of your symptoms and the recommended product that your doctor can easily complete with a signature.
Helen Stevenson, the founder and chief executive officer of Reformulary Group, says this was a natural progression for her company, after founding it to develop similar tools for prescription pills.
“We have a lot of experience in that space, and also in really empowering by putting a user-friendly tool in the hands of Canadians to help them navigate,” said Stevenson. “And so it was in the medical cannabis area, as we’re being asked over and over again by employers, consumers, advisors, etc. ‘What should we do about medical cannabis?’ Well, our expertise is in reviewing evidence, and really building a tool that can empower a patient or a Canadian… to be knowledgeable and empowered with respect to their own treatment”
Because this field is still so relatively young, Stevenson, who is the former assistant deputy minister of health and executive officer of Ontario Public Drug Programs, says the need for a centralized and trusted source for all things cannabis still existed, and Reformulary Group hopes to fill that gap with this offering.
“This medical cannabis space has really been exploding, as has the black market. And yet there was no sort of trusted, independent source with respect to where the evidence was and product recommendations,” she said. “So that’s really why we we built kind of a standard and we’re hoping to become the standard.”
While patient autonomy is a key goal to this platform, Stevenson was also sure to emphasize the importance she believes this could have for the medical community. She says that many doctors are experiencing the same confusion as the general public, and thus are hesitant to prescribe cannabis. But she says this tool could provide the tangible evidence they need to make their decisions.
“There’s a lot of confusion out there. There’s a lot of hesitation by physicians to authorize medical cannabis. So our perspective again, because it’s grounded in evidence, and physicians like evidence, that’s what they rely on, that this is a way to give them comfort,” she said.
Additionally, like many e-prescribing platforms, Cannabis Standard will save time for doctors, says Stevenson. Not only will they have a list of symptoms at their disposal before even talking to a patient, but the documentation will be already filled out, thus saving administrative processes.
Stevenson says there are plans in place to add further features to the platform in the near future, including a forum for users to share their experiences.