Vatra Syla, Head of Marketing, Storz & Bickel GmbH & Co. KG, discusses the importance of medical cannabis vaporizers
U.S, January 13, 2020 (OPENACCESSGOVERMENT) Cannabis has gained an increasing importance in the medical field in the past years with more and more countries recognising its medicinal value. While medical cannabis products come in different forms and variations – like extracts, tinctures, gel capsules, sprays etc. – the cannabis flower is still an integral part of the cannabinoid therapy and is ultimately the cannabis product which raises the most questions when it comes to the correct administration.
The German-based Storz & Bickel GmbH & Co. KG is the first manufacturer of medical cannabis vaporizers worldwide and specialised in providing reliable and medically certified vaporizers and with that, a validated method for cannabis inhalation.
Depending on the cannabis product, different administration methods have been suggested. Extracts and gel capsules, for example, are substances in which active cannabinoids are dissolved in a suitable liquid, primarily for oral intake. The cannabis flower is different in the way that cannabinoids are present in the plant as non-effective acids, which must first be activated by decarboxylation through heat exposure. One way to achieve this is by consuming cannabis as an ingredient in baked goods or teas.
The oral administration of cannabis flowers is occasionally still proposed as a means of intake by some healthcare professionals and doctors, although it does not represent an optimal medical administration method due to the lack of validated recipes to which patients could be directed.
Furthermore, when cannabis is administered orally, the (self-) dosage is aggravated as the onset of effect can take up to 90 minutes and can last for 4-6 hours depending on the patient’s weight, metabolism and whether the patient has eaten before or not. Another unpredictability linked to the oral administration of cannabinoids is that inexperienced patients may not notice the effect of the initial administration right away and might, therefore, increase the dose too early.
The most popular way to consume cannabis flowers is via inhalation; In comparison to oral intake this has a much more rapid onset of effect because the active ingredients enter the bloodstream through the alveoli in the lungs relatively quickly. The effect is usually felt within 1-5 minutes and lasts for approximately 2-3 hours. For many patients with acute ailments this type of administration, therefore, offers a clear advantage over the oral administration. It is also easier for patients to find the right dosage because of the quick onset of effect.
There are two possibilities for inhaling cannabis. A widely used inhalation method is smoking. For most patients, this is the simplest and most convenient method because no special device is required. The disadvantage of this method is the inhalation of toxins that are generated when the dried flowers are burned. Toxic combustion substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), ammonia, and carbon monoxide (can) adversely affect the health of patients. This method is therefore not acceptable for medical use, especially when combustion-free cannabis vaporizers offer an alternative to smoking.
Cannabis vaporizers are designed to heat and thereby decarboxylate the cannabinoids in the flower in a controlled manner and to convert them into an inhalable aerosol without creating any toxic byproducts.
In the past years, a whole industry has evolved around cannabis vaporization and the market has been flooded by vaporizers of different shapes, sizes and built qualities. When considering vaporization as a means of medical cannabis administration however, great significance should be assigned to the functionality, quality and reliability of these devices to ensure their efficiency and patient safety.
ISO 13485 certified manufacturer Storz & Bickel offers two medical cannabis vaporizers, the VOLCANO MEDIC and the MIGHTY MEDIC. The vaporizers are developed and manufactured in Tuttlingen, Germany according to the European Medical Device Directive 93/42/ECC and Standard DIN EN 60601. Both devices are currently approved in Europe, Canada and Israel with more medical cannabis markets to be added in the future. The VOLCANO has been used in cannabis research worldwide for more than 15 years and is the vaporizer with the most validation from the scientific community.
Both devices use a controlled heating technology and offer the possibility to precisely adjust the heating temperature via the display on the device, which gives the user full control over the density of the produced aerosol. This can be valuable for inexperienced users, who are hereby able to start vaporizing at lower temperatures to produce a light vapor for a more pleasant inhalation experience. The maximum temperature that can be reached by the devices is 210°C. Validation studies have shown that at this temperature, THCA (TetraHydroCannabinolic Acid, Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA), and the terpenes are almost completely dissipated without combustion taking place. If used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the systemic bio-availability of vaporized cannabinoids from cannabis flowers with the VOLCANO MEDIC and the MIGHTY MEDIC is 29-35%. In comparison, the systemic bio-availability of orally absorbed cannabinoids has been reported to be below 15% due to the first pass effect in the liver.
The importance of cannabis vaporizers for medical professionals and patients
Medical cannabis vaporizers should be part of any discussion involving cannabis (flower) therapy. Other administration forms of cannabis have proven to be either harmful due to the production of toxic byproducts, or suboptimal due to the lack of validation data. Looking forward, it is of utmost importance that healthcare professionals are informed and sensitized to prescribing the correct cannabis administration form for their patients.
Furthermore, authorities should be responsible for ensuring that safe cannabis delivery methods are available to patients, ideally by including them into a reimbursement or insurance coverage plan to help prevent patients from relying on unhealthy cannabis intake methods.