Pubdate: Thu, 22 Feb 2018
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Copyright: 2018 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
Author: Sam Wood


The Rothman Institute at Jefferson, one of the nation's largest
orthopedic practices, announced Thursday it would collaborate on a
study to investigate the benefits of medical marijuana for patients
suffering from chronic and acute pain.

Rothman will work with Franklin BioScience, a Colorado-based cannabis
grower and retailer. Franklin BioScience expects to open a medical
marijuana dispensary in late-March called Beyond Hello in Bristol
Township, Bucks County.

"There's a link between access to cannabis and reduced opioid
overdoses," said physician Ari Greis, a Rothman pain management
specialist who will oversee the research. "We're all being cautiously
optimistic that it could be helpful to some of our patients. Because
we're leaders in orthopedic medicine, we feel this is an opportunity
we can't pass up."

The announcement comes just after the state's medical marijuana
program officially launched last week with the first legal sales of
cannabis occurring at six dispensaries. Dozens more -- which only will
sell concentrates, vape pens, tinctures and pills -- are expected to
open within the next several months.

More than 17,000 patients have registered to participate in
Pennsylvania's marijuana program. About 4,000 of those have been
certified by a physician. The agency says about 380 physicians are
approved to write recommendations.

The Rothman project will explore whether medical marijuana can be an
effective alternative to opioids for pain management.

Researchers plan to enroll patients with lower back and leg pain
brought on by sciatica, or compression of spinal nerves. Greis said he
received approval for the observational study two weeks ago from
Jefferson's Institutional Review Board. The research will be funded by
Franklin Bioscience.

"Sciatica is an unbelievably common problem and people try to avoid
surgery for it," Greis said. Opioids are a common treatment. Until the
study design is complete, it's unclear how long the study will be
conducted or how many patients will be involved.

"We have an obvious opioid crisis that is affecting our communities,
and despite everyone's awareness of the problem there hasn't been a
really obvious way to deal with it," Greis said. "A lot of patients
have tried so many things -- various medications, physical therapies,
injections and surgeries -- with little relief. Now we have a new
option. And it warrants looking into."

Some physicians at Rothman are so convinced of the potential of
cannabis to supplant or complement opioids that they have invested in
Franklin Biosciences, Greis said.

For the moment, Greis is the only Rothman physician approved by the
state Department of Health to certify patients to participate in the
state medical marijuana program. Because he can certify patients,
Greis is barred by the state from investing in any cannabis business.

Bob Pease is the president of Pennsylvania operations for Franklin
BioScience. He said the company -- and the national marijuana industry
- -- is bullish on the Keystone State.

"Pennsylvania could be the center of medical cannabis research for the
country given the way the state program is setting up," Pease said.
"Because of the resources around Big Pharma, biotech, the medical and
the scientific communities, we think that it's created an interesting
dynamic for marijuana research. That's why we're having a big push

Rothman isn't the first medical center in the region to set out to
research marijuana. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia announced in
December it would pair with an Australian biopharmaceutical company to
study the effects of cannabis on children with autism.

Franklin BioScience has the option to open two additional dispensaries
in the state. Pease said the company has "a good lead" on a
Philadelphia location. In December, it announced it would pair with
the University of the Sciences in West Philadelphia to develop a
cannabis education program for pharmacists, physicians and students
planning on entering the health professions.
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MAP posted-by: Matt