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Ministerial tick of approval for Rua Bioscience first.

Medicinal cannabis made in Tairawhiti has been hailed as a “world- class” product by Health Minister Andrew Little.

Gisborne company Rua Bioscience yesterday announced it had started distribution in New Zealand of its first medical cannabis product.

The medicinal cannabis oil is available on prescription and GPs and specialists who are registered medical practitioners will now be able to include Rua’s medicine in patient treatment plans.

Sales from the product, which is being made in Rua’s purpose-built facility in Gisborne, will be the first revenue for the NZX-listed company. It will be distributed nationally through CDC Pharmaceuticals.

“It is right that a New Zealand producer who has done all the work to meet our rigorous standards can now supply a world class product,” Mr Little said.

“This is a great development.”

The medicine will be available to some people here free of charge through a new compassionate access programme.

“The programme is available for people who live in Te Tairāwhiti and are receiving a health service from a Te Tairāwhiti-based provider,” Rua Bioscience co-founder Panapa Ehau said.

“There are a number of other criteria, which can be discussed with the prescriber. The most important of these is that the patient has a genuine clinical need that could be helped with the use of our medicine as well as real barriers that limit their ability to pay for the medicine.

“The programme is managed by prescribers. We recommend discussing criteria and options with GPs or specialists.”

The medicine is expected to be used by people suffering from post-traumatic stress, chronic pain and anxiety.

Kevin Pewhairangi, owner and pharmacist at Horouta Pharmacy in De Lautour Road, Kaiti, said having another choice in the market was a big step in the right direction.

“This is a significant milestone for New Zealand patients wanting to use medicinal cannabis, especially for whānau Māori and whānau from the Coast. This will allow us to see the chain of events that flow on from producing medicinal cannabis,” he said. Mr Pewhairangi is a former president of Ngā Kaitiaki o Te Puna Rongoā o Aotearoa/the Māori Pharmacists’ Association.

“Given Rua’s deep roots on the Coast, their focus on how to help people in our local community is really important. It gives patients and prescribers a locally-produced option to include in treatment plans.

“Having more products on the market is a step towards improving patient access. However, wider uptake remains dependent on education and engagement of prescribers.”

The product, RUA CBD100, is a medicinal cannabis oil that mainly contains the plant-derived cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD).

CBD binds to several receptors in the brain and increases their signalling. This can support the treatment of a number of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Rua Bioscience chief commercial officer Dr Andi Grant said the compassionate access programme was available for a select group of qualifying patients in Te Tairawhiti.

“The price as it leaves Rua is $215 per bottle. However, as the manufacturer, we don’t determine the final cost to the patient. That price depends on how much is prescribed, who prescribes it and what it’s prescribed for.”

Available: Rua Bioscience co-founder Panapa Ehau says the company’s product will be available in Te Tairawhiti, on prescription. Picture by Liam Clayton
DEEP ROOTS: Pharmacist Kevin Pewhairangi says the Rua Bioscience focus on how to help people in the local community is really important. Picture supplied
Medicinal: Rua Bioscience’s first product.