Israelis develop first ‘metered-dose’ medical cannabis inhaler

Home use is expected to begin, first in Israel, next year. Only after succeeding in Israel will it be exported.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries building in Jerusalem. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries building in Jerusalem.
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. said on Monday that it will market the world’s first marijuana inhaler capable of delivering botanicals at the level of safety and precision of conventional drugs.
Developed by Syqe Medical of Tel Aviv, the device will be marketed for Israel’s growing medical-cannabis industry.
Some 26,000 patients in the country are currently licensed to use medical cannabis, with that number expected to double by 2018, according to data provided by the companies.
“Teva Israel is entering the field of medical cannabis out of a deep commitment to patients coping with pain, which is one of the company’s core therapeutic areas,” said Teva CEO Avinoam Sapir, who also serves as the company’s director for Africa and the Middle East and its director of innovation in emerging markets.
Until now, pain relief from medical cannabis has been delivered via edibles containing the plant; inhaling smoke; or through commercial inhalers. None of those, however, provide reliable or accurate doses.
In the edible form, effectiveness often depends on what users ate a few hours before, while the quantities of active ingredients inhaled from cannabis cigarettes have generally been unknown. So, in the absence of precise dosing, cannabis could not be prescribed as a standard medical treatment, causing difficulties for patients and the physicians who treat them.
Approximately 90% of medical cannabis consumers worldwide take it by inhalation, and the Syqe inhaler allows them to receive the optimal dose for their condition, alleviating suffering in the most efficient possible way, the companies said.
Under their agreement, Syqe will manufacture the inhaler and disposable cartridges which will be marketed and distributed exclusively in Israel by Teva to doctors, nurses, hospitals, pain clinics, oncology clinics, pharmacies and others.
The two companies are developing a support and training system for patients and medical professionals with a team of nurses especially for this purpose.
The companies hope that, pending Health Ministry approval, the inhaler (purchased once, with disposable cartridges changed once a month) will be available at pharmacies for home use next year.
If successful, it then will be exported.
Currently, those permitted to use the inhaler – so far only those treated for pain at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa – pay out of pocket. That arrangement will remain in effect until the device is approved by the government and added to the basket of health services.
Syqe’s inhaler had been in use for more than a year at Rambam Medical Center with ministry approval, making it the first hospital in the world to prescribe cannabis as a standard treatment.
Syqe develops technologies for the pharmaceutical delivery of raw plants by inhalation. Cannabis is the first plant to be used with the inhaler, and clinical trials demonstrating its precision and compliance have been completed.
The Syqe inhaler, the product of more than five years of intensive work by a multidisciplinary team, controls temperature and airflow in realtime and includes a unique mechanism to enhance compliance and absorption.
The technology, Syqe said, only modifies the physical structure of the plant while preserving all its characteristics, enabling safe, precise and measurable delivery. The inhaler was developed using special 3D printers made by Stratasys.
“For the first time, cannabis can be regarded as a standard medical treatment, with precise control over dosage, tailored to the patient and [their] pain,” said Syqe.
“The inhaler will allow medical professionals to prescribe an optimal dose of cannabis, alleviating the patient’s symptoms while minimizing the psychoactive effects.”
Another advantage of the inhaler is that it is a convenient and accessible option for patients who are reluctant to smoke cannabis.
“We are effectively moving from cannabis use to cannabis treatment,” added Syqe chairman Dr.
Eytan Hyam, a former Health Ministry director- general. Prof. Elon Eisenberg, director of the pain research department at Rambam Medical Center, said: “The extent of medical cannabis use for the treatment of pain and other symptoms has increased significantly in recent years. The main problem facing doctors and researchers is the inability to estimate the amount of cannabis that is administered via smoking or vaporization. The ability to do so forms the basis for administering proper treatment.
“The development of this inhaler fulfills our greatest hopes to be able to administer accurate and reliable doses of cannabis. It constitutes a breakthrough in cannabis treatment and the medical use of cannabis in Israel and around the world.”