Kiwi-made cannabis products could hit shelves by Christmas

Benedict Collins
Source: 1News

The first New Zealand-made medicinal cannabis products could be in pharmacies before Christmas.

Medicinal cannabis company Helius has received its good manufacturing practice (GMP) certification; the first firm to receive a licence to begin production.

Helius Therapeutics chief executive Carmen Doran said the company received its GMP certification on Friday and told 1 NEWS today that's a "big step in bringing products to the market".

"We expect that you will see New Zealand-made products in market before Christmas this year."

Doran said Helius still needs to work with the Medicinal Cannabis Agency and provide information to ensure its products meet New Zealand's quality standards.

The company's factory in East Tamaki is the largest medicinal cannabis facility in New Zealand with the capacity to grow 100,000 plants and turn them into medicines - whether that is drops, sprays or capsules.

Doran said medicinal cannabis can help patients who have problems with sleep, anxiety and pain and said there are more than a million New Zealanders who suffer from sleep disorders.

"I think it's a great way to support quality of life," she told 1 NEWS.

Asked what she made of the news, the Green Party's drug law reform spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick exclaimed "hallelujah".

"We finally have one New Zealand company that is licensed to produce domestically," she told 1 NEWS.

Helius Therapeutics chief executive Carmen Doran

Health Minister Andrew Little said he was also pleased a medicinal cannabis company had received GMP certification he hoped others follow suit.

Little said he will not be extending the transitional medicinal cannabis regulations that have allowed a greater range of products into the country, and which expire at the end of next month.

"The feedback I have had from the industry, some of the players, is they don't think it needs to be extended anymore, bearing in mind that this is about the safety of products. 

"But it also sets us up well for those who want to go down the exporting route as well that they've got a product that will meet world standards."

Swarbrick says the end of the exemption will mean many patients "will be left in the lurch with many product equivalents double the price".

The Drug Foundation's executive director Sarah Helm told 1 NEWS "patients are nervous because this will mean the price will double for some" and called on the Government to urgently approve more domestic products.

Little said several overseas products already meet New Zealand’s standards and those imports will continue.

"For those who are using products that have been customised to one person, if a GP endorses that, as I understand it that regime continues," he said.