PA: Rothman Physicians, Franklin Bioscience Collaborate On Medical Cannabis Awareness Efforts, Research

Photo Credit: Jesse Tinsley

Physicians from Rothman Institute and Franklin BioScience co-hosted a series of educational events to broaden awareness of Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program among health care providers, academia, elected officials, community leaders and patients. The groups also provided an opportunity for health care professionals to learn about qualifying conditions, medical research, state-certification requirements and continuing medical education.

Alexander R. Vaccaro, MD, PhD, MBA, president of the Rothman Institute, said here at “The Future is Now: Medical Cannabis Symposium” that one of the reasons why the Rothman Institute stood behind the efforts of these individual Rothman physicians was because of the current opioid addiction epidemic and the role of orthopedists.

“We always had an interest. One of every four to five orthopedic surgeons who touches a patient predisposes the patient for a potential addiction in the future. Patients don’t use all the medication when you give it. Patients horde it or they give it out. I started to see the benefits of marijuana-based products as a spine surgeon” he told Orthopedics Today.

Vaccaro said there were two fractions among the physicians at the Rothman Institute – those who said it was time to change the paradigm of using opioids to treat pain and to use something less harmful and those who wanted to invest in medical cannabis financially.

“We, at the Rothman Institute, thought it was not appropriate as a medical institution to invest in it, so we allowed doctors to invest in it on their own,” he said.

Pennsylvania has a firewall in place, he said, which prohibits physicians who invest in medical cannabis companies or products from doing cannabis research, taking certification courses or writing medical cannabis prescriptions.

Physicians who are dedicated to study the science of cannabinoids will present their results in evidence-based, peer-reviewed publications. Thomas Jefferson University’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp will organize the research and the Rothman Institute is a participating member, which is headed by Ari C. Greis, DO, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at the Rothman Institute and clinical instructor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Thomas Jefferson University, he said.

“It is science. Does it work? No matter what you think is going to happen, you are always surprised by science,” Vaccaro said.

Greis said today physicians can offer appropriate patients access to medical cannabis for a variety of orthopedic conditions, including pain from degenerative arthritis and debilitating nerve damage. The conditions are difficult to treat – they become chronic and there are often ties no definitive cures, he said.

“We now know opioids are not the answer for everyone or for every condition. We need safe, effective alternatives,” he said.

Greis said the medical literature supports the use of cannabis in the treatment of chronic pain in adults, which is why the individual physicians launched the comprehensive medical cannabis research program with the goal of helping patients in need of pain relief. Plans include the collection of outcome measures and study of the effectiveness of cannabis in pain management. The first prospective, observational study of the use of cannabis for the treatment of low back and leg pain for spinal stenosis was recently approved by Thomas Jefferson University’s institutional review board, he said.

“In order to mitigate the devastating effects of the opioid crisis, we need to take action. We need health care providers and major health institutions to help destigmatize the use of cannabis as a medicine and to support research efforts, so we can further understand which cannabinoid preparations are effective in treating specific medical conditions,” he said.

The Lambert Center for the Study of Medicinal Cannabis and Hemp is the first major health science institution in the United States to commit to the comprehensive study of cannabinoid therapies, he said.

“Together, we share the experience, infrastructure and desire to help lead the way in orthopedic medical cannabis research. Because of regulatory restrictions of cannabis remaining a schedule 1 drug, we cannot do this work without industry leaders, like Franklin Bioscience, who share our dedication to advancing cannabis research.” Greis said.

Franklin BioScience is a cultivator, manufacturer and retailer of a science-backed health, wellness and lifestyle cannabis company with operations in Colorado, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Bob Pease, president of Franklin BioScience-Penn, told Orthopedics Today, that when Franklin Bioscience made the decision to apply for a license in Pennsylvania, the company was looking for strategic partners across the medical, scientific academic and business communities and for local partners who had an aligning philosophy, complementary skill set and experience base to advance the industry and research of the benefits of medical cannabis.

“We, like Rothman, we are focused on evidence-based research and outcomes and through partnership, we can actually set up clinical studies to collect data and actually provide good information and more reliable information about marijuana or various cannabinoid in the plant for specific conditions,” he said.

Franklin BioSciences previously announced its collaboration with the University of the Sciences for medical cannabis research. Company officials said Franklin BioScience will open its first dispensary, Beyond/Hello, in late March in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania. Additional dispensary locations in the Philadelphia region will be announced later this year.