Phoenix Life Sciences International, which touts itself as an adaptive healthcare solutions company, has chosen to conduct clinical trials of its cannabis-derived drug on diabetics in Vanuatu. According to Martin Tindall, its chief executive officer (CEO), this decision was made as a result of the strict federal laws in the United States that prevents trials of the experimental drug.
Founded in 2013, the company previously maintained its headquarters in Colorado but has relocated its operations to Vanuatu. The country’s Dangerous Drugs Act currently prohibits the cultivation, importation, possession, sale and supply cannabis or marijuana. The company, however, plans on importing cannabis pills from a third party source while waiting for the approval of the amended law.
Phoenix Life Sciences started working with Vanuatu’s national government about the development of trial laws and policies about four years ago, according to Tindall. He said that among the reasons Vanuatu was chosen because they were able to “work through” the framework of the law.
The Minister of Health has the authority to issue import permits upon the request of a pharmacist or a qualified medical practitioner. Such leeway has allowed the company to start its operations including importation from a third party, without violating Vanuatu’s drug laws.
The company has also made strategic manpower decisions. In January 2019, Dr. Santus Wari, Vanuatu’s former acting director-general of health, was hired as the company’s national head of healthcare.
Wari said that changes to Vanuatu’s drug laws will allow Phoenix Life Sciences to engage in marijuana cultivation. The law’s amendments are expected to pass Vanuatu’s Parliament within the year after its Council of Ministers issued a directive to this effect in 2018.
Tindall said that the United States will be excluded because its federal government continues to cling to prohibition. He has, he added, an “intimate appreciation for the effects of federal prohibition” in his position as founder and CEO of a company engaged in the development of cannabinoid-based medicines.
In previous interviews, Tindall has stated that he chose Vanuatu because of its diabetes epidemic. He added that since the cannabis-based drug cannot be manufactured in the U.S. and exported around the world since it’s illegal on the federal level, he was forced to relocate to Vanuatu. He felt that the company can’t achieve what it wants to achieve in the U.S.
Tindall also said that his decision to relocate to Vanuatu was because of its pristine environment for marijuana cultivation. He said, “It has the right levels of sunshine, the right levels of overall climatic conditions.” He added that for the company to produce yields in Australia and North America, it will require greenhouses.
Marijuana cultivation in Vanuatu will also defray costs.
On March 5, 2019, Tindall and representatives from the Vanuatu Ministry of Health conducted an inauguration ceremony to open a new Phoenix Life Sciences clinic in Port Vila, the country’s capital. At present, the clinic provides free health consultations and diabetes checkups for the locals in the Erakor village.
Phoenix Life Sciences plans on opening more clinics across Vanuatu. Of course, the company’s plans also include conducting clinical trials of its cannabis-based drugs on diabetes.
In the U.S., some states consider marijuana as illegal. Many states – 33 as of last count – including North Carolina, Alabama, and Wisconsin have legalized marijuana. This means that marijuana and its derivative products are allowed on prescription for medicinal use.
But it’s always best to ask for your doctor’s advice when considering the use of medical marijuana. Keep in mind that medical marijuana being a complementary therapy, it should only be used as a supplement, not a replacement, for a doctor-approved treatment program.
In the case of Phoenix Metabolic, Phoenix Life Science’s cannabis-based treatment for diabetes, the company claims that it’s an effective solution. Many advocacy groups are in agreement.
According to the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC), marijuana has numerous benefits in the management of diabetes symptoms. These include stabilizing blood glucose levels, decreasing neuropathic pain, and relieving gastrointestinal pain, among others. But the AAMC also warns that the results of studies are contradictory and more research is necessary.
Many experts are also cautioning against the use of marijuana and its derived products in the treatment of diabetes. In a study led by Dr. Halis Akturk, people with Type 1 diabetes who also use cannabis may have double the risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication.
Health experts also say that there is no strong evidence that shows cannabis actually works in diabetes treatment. There are also very few trials and, thus, cannabis is mainly used as part of a palliative care treatment.
The bottom line: Always be careful when using supplements of any kind when you’re a diabetic. Even when there are benefits to medical marijuana and it’s allowed in your state, it’s best to consult with your doctor. Until such time that medical marijuana’s benefits have been strongly established, it’s best to err on the side of caution.