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Labat Africa on a high as it announces start of SA’s first cannabis clinical trials

The study will provide insight into the link between cannabis genetics and patient outcomes. Photo, Courtney Africa, ANA.

The study will provide insight into the link between cannabis genetics and patient outcomes. Photo, Courtney Africa, ANA.

Published Jun 21, 2022


JSE-listed Labat Africa was on a high as it announced that, at long last, South Africa’s first ethically-approved cannabis clinical trials had kicked off.

Biodata, a subsidiary of Labat Africa, a medical cannabis firm that is duel listed on the JSE and Frankfurt stock exchanges, has launched a research project to test whether cannabis can replace opioids in the management of chronic pain.

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The share price remained unmoved by the news at R0.22 in intraday trade.

Labat Africa said Biodata was the brainchild of Dr Shiksha Gallow, a cannabis clinician and the principal investigator in the trials, which took more than18 months to get official clearance.

“Ultimately the study will involve 1 000 participants who have been taking opioids for pain management for at least three months and are prepared to switch to cannabis as an alternative,” it said.

The study would provide insight into the link between cannabis genetics and patient outcomes.

The study would also assist doctors across the globe with a safer alternative for their patients to treat chronic pain, Gallow said.

She said the chemovars currently being used in the study were Tallyman and Exodus, which were being sourced from Labat’s Sweetwaters Aquaponics South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra)-licensed facility in the Eastern Cape.

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Other strains “specific for pain” were undergoing research and development at Sweetwaters.

Gallow told Cannabiz Africa: “We are currently recruiting patients, and data-capturing all the questionnaires and feedback from the patients for the live study. It has been fairly slow.

“Once we reach the sample size required and all of the relevant data has been collated, the results of the study will be published. We have currently renewed this study for another year, due to the initially slow uptake of research participants,” it said.

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Candidates for the study could apply on the Biodata website to be a research participant with the launch of a Biodata Research mobile app on the cards.

Labat also said it was expanding its retail footprint over the next few months with the introduction of CannAfrica kiosks in major shopping malls and believed these would be the “ideal locations for physical-sign-up points for the study”.

Labat said the kiosks would also serve as Biodata dispensaries and it was engaging with a number of vape stores to do the same, although these would have to be subject to Sahpra’s pharma-ethics requirements.

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The pilot results of the study were promising as it showed 98 percent of the patients had some sort of pain relief from the cannabis, Labat said.

“We were able to wean these patients off their opioid treatment. In the pilot group of patients below the age of 55, it was shown this group preferred to smoke the cannabis, and patients older than 55 years preferred the oil.

“The patients who smoked the cannabis had relief almost immediately, while the oil took some time to alleviate their pain,” it said.

In May the firm said it had secured an off-take agreement with buyers in Europe, particularly Switzerland and Germany as well as Australia, for the supply of cannabis products.

Labat has been growing its horizons steadily.

Earlier this year, Labat announced that it had inked a memorandum of understanding with South Africa’s central research and development organisation, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The agreement aimed to solidify collaboration and co-operation between the CSIR and Labat across the value chain of cannabis and hemp production for industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to textiles to energy.