- Ian Allen/Staff Photographer
The Canasol eyedrop, a derivative from cannabis (ganja) that is used in the treatment of glaucoma.
Teino Evans, Staff Reporter
CANASOL, THE locally produced drug used for the treatment of the eye disease, glaucoma, is now in high demand both on the local and international market.
The product, a derivative from cannabis (ganja), was at first received with much scepticism and doubt, but according to ophthalmologist Dr. Albert Lockhart, one of the developers of the product, patients from Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., New York and Massachusetts in the United States are now using it.
"We have to try to educate people and let them know that Canasol does not contain any psychoactive agents" from ganja, he said.
The product is currently being distributed in Jamaica by Medi-Grace Limited and, according to Dr. Lockhart, they have also exported to England, some Caribbean islands, and it is sold directly based on doctor's prescriptions from the United States.
According to sources at Medi -Grace Limited, an average of 400 units are sold per month, and pharmacists across Jamaica have agreed that "the product sells like hot bread."
"There is a great demand for the product," Mrs. C. Law a pharmacist at Dolphin's Pharmacy in Kingston said, adding that persons even send from abroad to get it.
According to her, they had a customer from Canada who usually orders a six-month supply and have it delivered by airmail. She says the pharmacy usually orders 1,500 bottles of Canasol at a time, as supplies normally sells fast.
According to Mrs. Law, compared to other eye-drop drugs, Canasol is relatively cheap selling for as little as $285 per bottle, while other eyedrops (same size bottle) cost $1,897.
Now reaping the fruits of success after years of research and experimentation, Dr. Lockhart is content with the work that he and his research team has been doing. "There is a lot of personal and professional satisfaction. The financial part is secondary," he says.
Research on the product was started in 1973, but it was not until late 1980s, that the research team including Dr. Manley West, was able to get the product in a marketable state for it to be commercialised.
While explaining some of the rigours of producing Canasol, Dr. Lockhart pointed out that the environment in which the raw material (ganja) was produced, had to be very controlled. "We are controlled supply-wise, and we have to be able to account for whatever (ganja) we get."
He described it as a very efficient system of production, as small quantities of ganja are able to produce sufficient amounts of Canasol.
"Fifty pounds of ganja will give us all we need (at the moment) for a year," he said, as roughly 30,000 vials of Canasol are produced each year. Research, however, did not cease after the development of Canasol, as further studies and experimentation led the doctor and his team to more discoveries in the medical uses of ganja.
Recently, two new ganja-based products have been developed Asmasol (a drug used to treat asthma, coughs and colds), and Cantimol (which also contains Canasol), and is a more potent drug used in the treatment of glaucoma. Cantimol, however, has not yet been approved by the Ministry of Health, Dr. Lockhart said.
A third product has been developed for the treatment of motion sickness and comes in the form of a nose drop. It is still being tested however.
Dr. Lockhart said this drug would eliminate the side-effects like drowsiness and blurred vision that come with other motion sickness drugs.