3D-Printed Inhaler From Israel Gives Cannabis In Controlled Doses
Israel, the epicenter of progressive cannabis culture, has just developed something else to get excited about: a 3D printed inhaler.
In a feature by the Jerusalem Post, Perry Davidson, CEO of Syqe Medical, talks about his humble beginnings. Patients with terminal illnesses would desperately seek his help to obtain medical cannabis before it was licensed in Israel. “Back then, I was picking up the cannabis in the garden, going on the bus, wrapping it up so it didn’t smell and physically giving it to the patient,” he says. “I was a 26-year old schmuck, and I was dealing with hundreds of cancer patients… How did we get to a situation where if I didn’t wake up in the morning, these cancer patients would or wouldn’t get their medication?”
Big names in pharma have already partnered with Syqe Medical, a drug delivery company based in Tel Aviv, in order to distribute a brand-new 3D-printed MMJ inhaler. Through the product, doctors can remotely prescribe the drug in controlled doses, solving one of the biggest problems we face in the medical cannabis community today: accurate dosage.
The inhaler is the only metered dose cannabis inhaler made out of plant material in the world. The device was approved by the Israeli Health Ministry over 2 years ago for use in a pilot program conducted at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, the first location where doctor prescribed the drug as “standard medical treatment”. Since then, Israel has come a long way in pioneering how medical cannabis is used. Israel is also where Professor Raphael Mechoulam came from, whom we know of as the Godfather of THC because he was the first person to ever isolate and identify the cannabinoid THC as we know it today, back in the 1960’s.
Israel is home to ingenious, pioneering cannabis startups which make it ripe for the growth of Syqe Medical who benefited from a 3D printer worth half a million dollars, which they got for free as a beta product. Syqe Medical also received $1 million in funding from the Israel Innovation Authority. “The R&D, localized support, it has very much to do with the innovative climate in Israel and the financial support of seed investors… Now, investors are knocking at our doors every day,” Davidson says.
Precise dosage has long been an issue particularly for medical cannabis patients who need this information more than recreational users. Defining precise dosage is still in its infancy, but the Syqe inhaler seems to have found a solution. Smoking cannabis has raised many health concerns particularly for those who suffer from respiratory allergies or diseases that affect the mouth, nose, and breathing function.
Using the Syqe handheld inhaler only takes 3-5 minutes for the concentrated cannabis to reach the bloodstream. Another impressive aspect of this device is that it’s built to be smart – the inhaler collects data and sends it back to Syqe immediately so that researchers can monitor the patient’s usage and use this information to build case studies that can strengthen the case to legalize cannabis. It does this through the use of preloaded cannabis VaporChips, which look just like computer chips, which are stored in a cartridge. The inhaler also features thermal controllers and lung interfacing which can be used to stop or increase airflow based, while speed and pace can also be adjusted, allowing patients to meet a precise dose within 100 micrograms, a medically accepted threshold of accuracy.
“We were able to deliver a plant with the same rigor, safety, and precision as a [traditional] pharmaceutical,” says Davidson, referring to a 2016 contract with Teva Pharmaceuticals who will be distributing the inhaler domestically. Syqe is also planning for a trial with the US FDA next year.
“We give them credit, for Teva, to have the chutzpah to sign up with us to prescribe cannabis in its natural form,” says Davidson. “The fact that we had to go through all the due diligence with the top management in Teva to have this marketed by a pharmaceutical company – if that doesn’t mean we’re a drug, I don’t know what is a drug.” Even Philip Morris has poured in $20 million in Syqe with the objective of finding ways to reduce health risks associated with smoking, giving Syqe a total of $33 million today.
Several hundred Israelis are now using the Syqe device, out of 30,000 who are all prescribed MMJ. They’re all also under the watch of Rambam Hospital. Davidson said that there are people calling weekly asking, “Is it in the market, is it in the market?”. But patients will have to wait until 2018 to use the inhaler outside Rambam Hospital.