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Can you imagine going to your doctor and asking to see a cannabis specialist? In the not too distant future, this will be a normal occurrence, and a company called NiaMedic is leading the way. They are a pioneering healthcare, data, and research services company operating innovative clinics focused on improving patients’ quality of life.
The premise is straightforward; use research, data, and analysis to recommend the best cannabis and conventional medications for your condition, and, teach you how to properly use the cannabis element. NiaMedic’s physicians specialize in Geriatric Care, Pain Management, Neurology, Psychiatry, Rehabilitation, Rheumatology, Orthopedics, and Oncology. Nurses and paramedical staff provide a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach, and consider a variety of factors prior to treating patients with medical cannabis. In other words, incorporating cannabis as a normal part of medical treatment when it’s appropriate.
Born from Need
Ten years ago, a nurse working as the general manager of a retirement home in Israel wanted to make a difference. She saw people suffering and conventional medicine didn’t seem to help with the patients’ quality of life. It’s easy to forget that ten years ago, only a few medical professionals understood how to use cannabis let alone purchasing vaporizers for patients. I spoke with Alon Blatt, NiaMedic’s Director of Business Development, who said: “The nursing staff literally had to take a vacuum cleaner, reverse the engine to generate clouds of smoke for the patient to inhale.” These early experiences led to the creation of a clinic, and research became a central component of the mission. According to Alon, “The clinic came first, then in order to really push it forward, we knew we needed to collect all this data and build the research platform. We wanted to learn from our data and then see how to improve it. Now we offer research and collaboration services to other companies.”
The initial results are impressive. Their website states:
93.8 percent of patients reported improvement in their condition, while none reported deterioration.
87.5 percent reported significant pain reduction, reported pain level was reduced by an average of 7.5 points on a scale of 0-10 (VAS).
Over 50 percent of the patients stopped using opioids or other analgesics & over 25 percent reduced their doses.
Over 50 percent of patients reported an improvement in their appetite.
A 17 percent reduction in the total number of medications used.
Reduction in hospitalization days.
Positive effects on the urinary system and joint pain.
94 percent of patients reported no psychoactive sensation-side effects.
Research is the Key
Most Americans are unaware that Israel leads the world in medicinal cannabis research. In fact, Raphael Mechoulam, Ph.D., a biochemist and a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem is credited with discovering THC in 1964 with his colleague Professor Yechiel Gaoni. The discovery of CBD and anandamide cannabinoids followed later. Following this tradition and taking advantage of it, NiaMedic’s research platform remains in Israel. The studies and research generated are then used by their clinics so they follow the same research protocol.
The Patient Process
Make no mistake, NiaMedic takes a completely professional approach to patient care much like any other doctor’s office or healthcare clinic, but there is a personal touch as well. Alon said “You have to know how to reach and connect with your patients. So it starts with a phone call. We talk to them and explain the process because we want to ensure they’re are good candidates. We want to understand their conditions and make sure that they will benefit from coming to us and get good results. So, the hope is to treat every patient like an uncle, brother, or sister and not just as a number. That’s how we start.”
After the initial call, NiaMedic’s staff asks them to send us their medical history. A link is sent to fill out different questionnaires on their online portal, or they may complete the paperwork in a clinic. According to Alon, it takes an average of 40 to 45 minutes as it’s a comprehensive medical history intake process.
When patients come into the clinic, they undergo a variety of initial tests including cognitive testing, functional activity, balance tests, along with checking their blood pressure while standing up and sitting down. “We really want to provide safe, effective treatment, and safety comes first. So, we perform all those tests and then customize their treatment plan,” Alon said. He then explained there are essentially four components to the treatment plan:
1. Each treatment plan is based on the patient’s lifestyle. For example, a patient may want to drive during the day or partake in other activities where the choice and dosing of medication is crucial.
2. Next, doctors and staff prescribe the best match between the patient’s symptoms, current medications, and the appropriate cannabis strain and products based on their chemical profile. NiaMedic is not a dispensary and can’t supply medicinal cannabis, so they work with professional, licensed dispensaries to determine what they have in stock on a weekly basis. NiaMedic wants to ensure the medicine is good, reliable, and consistently available for their patients and their customized treatment plan.
3. As with any medicine, dosing, or in the case of cannabis, Microdosing is incredibly important. Normally, microdosing falls within a range of 2.5 milligrams up to 10 mg. NiaMedic follows the Three Well’s GLASS rule; Go Low and Start Slow. Alon said “We actually start with less than a fraction of a milligram and we titrate up from there. For the vast majority of patients, we’re able to stabilize them well below the 10 mg dose.
4. The last step is determining the most appropriate form of consumption and administration. Alon explained that “People tend to think that it’s just a matter of personal preference. Oh, I prefer to take a pill or I like gummy bears. We know there are different routes of administration that may be more effective for different conditions. We rarely recommend edibles because when THC goes through your liver it changes from Delta 9 THC into 11 Hydroxy THC which can be up to five times more potent. After the initial plan is in place, we include one month of patient case management. Our nursing staff sets up weekly phone calls to help keep patients under medical supervision. This way, we’re able to eliminate or significantly mitigate any potential side effects such as dizziness, sleep issues or other concerns.”
Coming Soon to a Doctor’s Office Near You
Currently, NiaMedic has two clinics in Israel, one in Beverly Hills, California, and soon, one in Newport Beach. They are also implementing a “clinic within a clinic model.” The idea is to lease space within established doctors offices to provide independent medicinal cannabis treatment. Alon told me that “Everbody wins. The established office increases its patient traffic and internal referrals. We’re not here to take the patient from the doctor. We’re able to bring our own staff and see the patients there. This also provides a layer of insulation for the doctors, nurses, and staff who may be concerned about the DEA and their medical licenses.”
Medical cannabis has been legal in California since 1996. Still, we seem to be at a new threshold of medical treatment options for patients who may benefit from including cannabis in their treatment regimen. Companies like NiaMedic will be instrumental in helping patients and the medical community normalize the use of medicinal cannabis. In the not too distant future, it will hopefully be commonplace to hear the words “The doctor will see you now.”
Philip Rebentisch is a Contributing Editor for Three Wells. He is also the host of the podcast, Cannabis For the Rest Of Us, on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, sponsored by Three Wells.