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Pot, pharma join forces

Licensed medical marijuana producer Tilray Inc. has formed an exclusive alliance with Sandoz Canada, in what it says is the first collaboration between a cannabis producer and a local affiliate of so-called Big Pharma.

Tilray, headquartered in Toronto with production facilities in British Columbia, has signed a binding letter of intent with the Quebec-based affiliate of Sandoz International GmbH, part of global healthcare company Novartis.

As part of the agreement announced Monday, Tilray will become the exclusive collaborator with Sandoz Canada on cannabis-based medical products which are non-smokable or non-combustible such as gel caps and sprays for the domestic market.

Subject to future regulatory changes, the aim is to distribute on a wholesale level these co-branded products to Canadian hospitals and pharmacies, said Tilray's chief executive officer Brendan Kennedy.

There is still much skepticism towards the medical marijuana industry, and this collaboration with a recognized pharmaceutical company will help alleviate that, he said.

As well, patients and physicians may feel more comfortable with cannabis-based products in forms such as pills and creams that are familiar.

"That was part of the opportunity we saw... To distribute Tilray products that have the Sandoz logo that pharmacists, physicians and patients are used to seeing in their pharmaceutical packages. I think that will give physicians confidence and trust in our brand and our product," he said in an interview.

According to the latest figures from Health Canada, there were 235,621 registered medical marijuana patients at the end of September 2017, up 35 per cent from 174,503 at the end of April 2017.

The total number of medical practitioners who have ever provided a medical document for a client who registered with a licensed marijuana producer was 10,433 at the end of September, up from 9,726 three months earlier, when data was first gathered.

Meanwhile, the pharmacy industry has been positioning itself to distribute medical cannabis.

Shoppers Drug Mart has lined up supply agreements with four licensed producers, including Tilray, and Shoppers parent company Loblaw has filed for a producers license which would allow it to distribute the drug. Other pharmacies such as PharmaChoice has also signed marijuana supply agreements.



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