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The History of Apollo & Medical Cannabis Research in Canada

By April 1, 2021 No Comments
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Welcome to the 13th episode of Medical Cannabis Now where we’ll be talking about the history of Apollo and medical cannabis in Canada. As a research facility and a medical cannabis clinic, cannabis research is a large part of our practice and a pillar stone in how we find success with our patients.

Medical Cannabis & Apollo Applied Research in 2013

In 2013, Apollo was nothing more than a concept fueled by founder and president Bryan Hendin’s intense passion to support patients who told him cannabis worked for their pain. At the time, Bryan was the co-founder of a pain management clinic where he heard from chronic pain patients disclosing their use of cannabis to deal with pain and the subsequent relief. 

Working closely with patients at the pain clinic, he kept hearing stories from patients that medical cannabis was often the only thing that worked for them – or was at least a part of the medical treatment routine. It allowed them to work and function again while dealing with the ever-present pain. He also heard how difficult it was for patients to know what dose to take or even what they were buying. Doctors weren’t willing to prescribe even though medical cannabis had been legalized many years before in 2001. The concern at the time was that there wasn’t enough research to validate that cannabis could help, despite what patients were saying. Bryan recognized that the patients were experiencing positive results from medical cannabis but physicians were unwilling to prescribe it due to a lack of evidence. This fueled his desire to create Apollo Applied Research – a research organization to help physicians and patients effectively research and prescribe medical cannabis.

 

Medical Cannabis Research

Wanting to be a part of the change, Bryan began Apollo Applied Research which allowed him to create Apollo’s first research study protocol. When he finally presented his research proposal to physicians, few showed up to his presentation. With no doctors willing to prescribe to patients, he wouldn’t have any legitimate medical cannabis patients to participate in his research study; which led him to open Apollo’s first prescribing medical cannabis clinic in 2014, Apollo Cannabis Clinics.

With the goal of helping people and providing real research to the academic world, Apollo and its team of healthcare providers started to work closely with patients to see why certain products worked for some but not for others. Discovering how important the endocannabinoid system is to one’s homeostasis was a big part of learning how medical cannabis can impact so many different parts of the body and in effect, help with many different conditions

Since then, Apollo has worked with a variety of academic partners to conduct and present Apollo’s research findings including The University of Toronto, New York University, and international medical and research conferences. The primary objective of these partnerships was to deliver validated evidence to empower physicians. The first goal was to focus on the needed research in the field of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain.

 

Apollo’s Research Findings

With a primary focus on chronic pain, Apollo leads one of Canada’s largest medical cannabis studies. With ethics-approved research with phase 3 for clinical trials, Apollo was the first cannabis research organization to run a large-scale open cohort research study for chronic pain in Canada. Our published study has validated that medical cannabis can help manage chronic pain and may assist with reducing opioid use. Patients following Apollo’s treatment plan reported that after one month of medical cannabis use, 27% found a reduction in pain interference with daily activities, and 23% reduction in pain severity. After 12 months of medical cannabis use, patients reported a 43% reduction in pain interference with daily activities and a 37% reduction in pain severity. Patients also reported an improvement in mental health with medical cannabis.

In 2016, Apollo and Bryan launched the largest PTSD medical cannabis study in Canada. Studies for veterans and first responders who struggle daily with post-traumatic stress disorder find treatment options are often limited. 

There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence and it’s time for validated research that medical cannabis can improve sleep and overall quality of life for those with PTSD. 

In 2018 Apollo conducted a driving study with the University Health Network, funded by the provincial government, to detect roadside safety using a tablet-based screening tool. This research study is intended to help improve police officers’ screening methods of cannabis-related roadside impairment. The study is still ongoing at the time that this article was published.

 

Our Clinics

Apollo currently has five physical locations in the GTA while seeing patients virtually across Canada, with a wide array of specialty physicians including psychiatrists, anesthesiologists, pain specialists, pediatric specialists, and an OBGYN. 

Apollo’s first clinic in North York, Ontario opened its doors to patients in 2014. The next two locations opened their doors at Yonge and Eglinton & Aurora, Ontario in 2018. The Yorkville and Etobicoke locations followed, opening their doors to patients in 2019. 

Community engagement and education is a large part of Apollo’s pillars, and we have teamed up with various social and medical organizations across Canada to help provide cannabis information education to their members. In the past, Apollo has worked with Zoomer radio, Bladder Cancer groups, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Prostate Cancer groups, Ontario Pain Foundation, The Arthritis Society, and many other health and wellness groups. 

So what is in store for the future of medical cannabis now? The future of medical cannabis for patients is truly limitless and we really have no idea how effective it is going to be for many conditions that people are suffering from. As time goes on we will continue to study the molecules and individual cannabinoids and we may find that it can be a safe treatment option for much more than we currently know.

 

Patient Success 

When we talk to our own patients and doctors, we hear amazing stories of patients coming in to treat one symptom or condition, and finding relief for others such as insomnia or anxiety. Since the legalization of recreational cannabis and better education for the population, we have seen an influx of not just medical patients, but healthcare practitioners who are more accepting, open, and interested in learning more.

So how has medical cannabis changed from 2014 to now? In 2014 the landscape of medical cannabis and its research was a risky one as the industry was very new and heavily influenced by bureaucratic regulations, personal and financial risk. Doctors wouldn’t prescribe, patients couldn’t afford the medication, and this efficacy was difficult to achieve with such limited research. Another large difference from 2014 to now was the way in which cannabis was seen or perceived and talked about by the general public. Now it’s more commonly accepted and more people recognize the benefits that it’s providing to those that need it, improving the quality of life for their friends and family who may be struggling. Now we’ve been able to contribute evidence-based research not only in Canada but for physicians and patients internationally. 

We often get asked what our favourite early success stories are. One of Apollo’s first patients was a woman who was constantly hunched over with pain and couldn’t walk on her own. After visiting us at Apollo and consulting with a physician, she came back three months later and was a completely different person; functioning and more importantly walking on her own again.

There was a parent to a young child with autism spectrum disorder and during one of our check-ins with the mother, she tearfully mentioned that since starting treatment with CBD oil, her child was able to say their first words. The child was able to better communicate with their parents and teachers. Now, this was a life-changing result for not just the young child but their family. We have seen numerous similar experiences from our patients.

 

The History of Medical Cannabis in Canada

Now, a little history on medical cannabis in Canada. The regulations for medical cannabis were established in July 2001 and it was very strict on who qualified as a patient. This was called MMA, or the Medical Marijuana Access program, which covered two main categories. These included people with any symptoms treated within the context of providing compassionate end-of-life care: severe pain and persistent muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, from a spinal cord injury, or spinal cord disease, cachexia, anorexia weight loss, and/or severe nausea from cancer or HIV/AIDS, pain from severe forms of arthritis, and seizures from epilepsy.

In April 2014, the medical marijuana access program was replaced by the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, or MMPR, by Health Canada. Under the MMPR, legal medical cannabis production is authorized to license producers whom Health Canada maintains a public database. In August 2016, the ACMPR, Access To Cannabis For Medical Purposes, took over and the new official regulations provided more access for patients, including a wider variety of cannabis products than just dried flower. 

In October 2016, a national poll by forums suggests that about 5 million adult Canadians use cannabis at least once a month. On April 13, 2017, a bill to legalize cannabis was introduced to parliament and would allow for use and possession by individuals of legal age. On June 19, 2018, the Senate passed the bill and the Prime Minister announced the legalization date as October 17, 2018. Canada was the second nation to legalize the plant. It’s important to note that the bill does not change how medical cannabis was prescribed, but it allowed for easier access and helped to ease the mind of many who were concerned about using it for their own medical purposes. Public possession limits for patients prescribed medical cannabis are the lesser of a hundred fifty grams or a 30 day supply. This does not include the 30 grams one is allowed to have of recreational cannabis or cannabis without a prescription. Since the Cannabis Act came into effect on October 17th, 2018, it has come with new regulations and improvements that have replaced the ACMPR in order to provide better and consistent access to patients. 

Patients now have access to products like cannabis oils, capsules, sprays, edibles like gummies or chocolate, pre-rolls, concentrates, topicals and beverages. This has allowed patients to have a variety of products where they could choose how they wish to use their medication.

 

We hope you enjoyed the video and learned something about the medical cannabis industry, the research behind it, and Apollo clinics. If you have any questions about medical cannabis or your prescription, please feel free to send them to Marketing@apolloresearch.ca where we will be more than happy to answer them for you. 

If you are considering medical cannabis as a treatment option, we’re always here to help support you seven days a week offering free video and phone appointments across Canada. We hope to see you soon.

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