A Spray of Dope
Development of a cannabis inhaler in Israel
Sometimes the volumes of information available by just one or two clicks can confuse both experts and non-experts, especially when it comes to the contentious topic of marijuana. To partake or not to partake; to vape or not to vape; to ingest in any form or to steer clear in favor of approved medications; to bypass the local drug dealer and head to a marijuana-friendly state; to scrupulously abide by the letter of the law, until the law becomes so arcane that mere mortals are left scratching their heads. Those are all questions that can cloud the judgment of a healthy person, let alone someone affected by mental or physical pain. Even proponents of taking “just the right amount of marijuana,” because of a purported greater benefit/risk profile compared to other medications, warn about not taking “too much at too young an age,” lest one’s neural wiring becomes totally tangled and a generation of stoners are left unable to control themselves, let alone the country. Of course, that opens up a can of worms, about how sober individuals are governing their respective domains right now, but I digress.
Enter the usual cadre of geeks providing interesting solutions to some of those pressing questions e.g., can one substitute the toxic effects of smoking marijuana plus additives, akin in the anti-cannabis crowd’s corner to smoking cigarettes, with another way to ingest the plant. While the debate is still ongoing regarding vaping and not everyone is an expert at making edibles, an Israeli start-up has come up with a metered-dose inhaler. As asthmatics can attest, the proper use of inhalers containing first-line medications, are often prerequisites for improving health-related quality of lives. Reliever inhalers are usually prescribed together with medications that need only be taken as occasional puffs, if the goal is to reduce periodic symptoms such as wheezing or coughs. On the other hand, preventer inhalers filled with appropriate medications need to be taken on a long-term basis to achieve sustained bronchodilation. Like any other medical tool, proper technique is necessary to use the device, in order to ensure that the correct dose is delivered over the course of the treatment. To complicate matters, devices come in different flavors. Some devices deliver drugs into the lungs as you breathe, while others require the priming and pumping of a device in order to ensure that the correct “metered” dose is delivered into the lungs.
The cannabis inhaler falls in the latter category. According to the manufacturers, the The Syqe Inhaler™ is a “first-in-class pocket-sized selective-dose cannabis inhaler, poised to become the most advanced and versatile inhalation-based drug delivery platform of its kind.” Moreover, “utilizes selective 100 microgram dosing precision, real-time thermal & flow controllers, lung interfacing and wireless connectivity.” The early use of the inhaler, available only in Israeli hospitals, is for the treatment of neuropathic pain. The same site mentions a Phase 1b study showing a 45% reduction in pain intensities shortly after inhalation among eligible subjects, suggesting the potential use of this precise, smokeless delivery system to an ever-growing population with chronic pain in a clinical setting. Presumably, the inventors are using the understanding that this mode of administration is typically associated with a higher bioavailability at a lower dose, perhaps better blood-brain barrier penetration, and an improved benefit/risk profile. While skeptics may wonder whether the pre-packed cartridges with raw cannabis plants mean that patients will now become “real-world trial subjects” to see which botanical formulae provide the desired effects, proponents are ecstatic to finally test the anecdotal benefits and risks of cannabis in patients with a range of different physical and mental ailments.
Watch this space.