Oz Medicann Group (OMG) is coming out of “stealth mode” as it prepares to launch its pharmaceutical division with a topical pain-relief salve and CBD products – including a flower range – to treat various underlying medical conditions.
OMG is also working with NICM Health Research Institute on a “ground-breaking, research-backed clinical trial” of its sublingual insomnia tablet for registration as a Schedule 3 (over-the-counter) medicine.
The pain-relief salve, OMG’s first product to contain full-spectrum CBD and Kunzea oil, will be available via the special access scheme in Australia and as a non-prescription product in overseas markets, while the development of the flower range has been driven by the recent surge in demand from patients.
Founder John Leith said the launch of OMG’s pharma division was informed by the firm’s personalised medicine strategy, which puts the focus on patients rather than the need to drive revenue. He said the success of sister company Hemp Oz has provided the space – and funds – for OMG to develop at its own pace.
“It’s management consultancy 101,” he said. “Who’s your customer? It’s no use thinking ‘if you build it, they will come’. The approach we’ve taken is to ask patients what they want to address – sleep for example – and then we’ve looked to solve that problem.
“We have researched the common conditions suffered by patients in Australia and globally, and these are predominantly insomnia, chronic pain, anxiety and depression.
“And we have worked closely with our research partners at NICM Health Research Institute as well as the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand and our broad-based medical advisory team to come up with the best solutions.
“Personalised medicine is the biggest opportunity in the world today, a new era, not just for cannabis. As the legal and regulatory framework matures, OMG is well positioned to address the medical needs of patients and make them feel at ease. That’s what we do.”
Like many people in the industry, Leith’s journey into it is a deeply personal one. He first became aware of the potential of medicinal cannabis when his brother, a solicitor, was diagnosed with cancer and found relief from CBD oil.
However, as the medicine was still illegal at the time, he was risking his career by sourcing it from the illicit market.
Leith said: “The only reason OMG exists is because of my belligerence. When my brother – whose quality of life was dependent on this stuff – told me it was illegal and he would be disbarred if he was caught taking it, I was raging.”
But with legalisation still a pipe dream, he instead put most of his energy into Hemp Oz at first, a move which enabled OMG to be self-funding and develop at its own pace.
Now that pace is about to quicken. But for Leith it will be about quality rather than quantity, with patients and patient access at the company’s core.
“We’re coming out of stealth mode, and while we would welcome it, we don’t want to be necessarily the biggest in this space, we want to be recognised as the best,” he said. “We are building a brand that’s trusted to deliver what patients need.”
To achieve that, OMG’s CBD sleep trial will see its sublingual cannabis tablet put through its paces in a bid to get it registered as an over-the-counter medicine for insomnia.
Following disappointing phase III clinical trial results for Ecofibre and Cann Group – both of whom saw their drug candidates fail to show sufficient differences to a placebo – Leith could be forgiven for a moment of self-doubt.
But he told Cannabiz he remains confident the trial will succeed given the tablet’s unique characteristics, including improved bioavailability, and the quality of the team leading it, with Emeritus Professor Alan Bensoussan, previous director of NICM Health Research Institute, overseeing the project for OMG.
“We’ve worked on this formulation for two years, we’re quietly confident,” he said.
It also helps to have deep pockets, something the success of Hemp Oz has helped to provide.
“I’ve spent more money (on OMG) than on my retirement, I’ve practically sold the family silver,” Leith said with a wry chuckle.
“But we knew we needed a revenue stream [via Hemp Oz], you need some money coming in, right? That was always part of the business model. Unlike some others in the industry, OMG enjoys a healthy level of financial security.”
That financial security has helped OMG put the final piece of its patient-centric strategy into practice via a compassionate access scheme which Leith sees as one of the firm’s key differentiators in the market.
“Patients above profits is the mantra we work with at all times,” he said. “It’s not just rich people who need this medicine. We will be providing access to those that can’t afford it with a compassionate access module that goes above and beyond.”
“It’s a specific program that we’ve written, in conjunction with medical professionals. It’s one of the biggest reasons we are providing flower products, because we can see the numbers and we can see the cost of sourcing them.
“We know that’s a massive barrier to people and we want to offer them medicine they can actually afford. If it needs to be free for some patients, because they’re end of life for example, that’s what we’ll do.
“We put patients above profits. That’s our entire DNA and we’ll make good on that by providing quality products at a breakthrough price.”