SECURING patient-generated data and enabling them to speak the language of the health-care system is at the heart of a ground-breaking development by UK cannabis firm Alta Flora.
Following an initial six-figure fund-raise from ‘friends and family’ patient app Eva was launched in its Android format last week with the Apple iOS version set for release in early December.
Speaking to BusinessCann Gavin Sathianathan, Founder and CEO, says its aim is to resolve one of the key stumbling blocks to medical cannabis access.
This Medicine Works For Me
“Eva will help answer the two main questions facing patients; what medicine works best for me? and how can I persuade my doctor that this medicine works for me?”
Eva – Hebrew for Giver of Life – allows uses to record their prescribing activities, the efficacy of their medicine and deliver this in real-time to medical professionals.
The app is being used by those enrolled onto the UK’s Project 2021 initiative; a real-world cannabis observational trial aimed at enrolling 8,000 patients by the end of next year.
Mr Sathianathan says Eva is being well-received: “We have had interest from around the world. We are talking to a hospital in Canada which is conducting a randomised controlled trial with veterans consuming cannabis for PTSD.”
Ideal Research Tool For Businesses
It is also talking to an Australian Licensed Producer which wants to gather data on women using cannabis oils to reduce the pain caused by endometriosis and fibromyalgia, as well as a UK cannabis business with a patented dispensing device.
Alta Fora believes Eva is an ideal research tool for companies – say, for example, a cannabis producer, keen on securing granular data on how its products interact with patients.
Mr Sathianathan returned to the UK a few years ago after running a cannabis dispensary in Las Vegas. He had previously worked for Facebook after securing a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
On returning to the UK he helped found Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies which focuses on developing pharmaceutical cannabis medicines.
With Alta Flora the initial goal was to develop bespoke cannabis medicines to cater for individual patient needs.
Cannabis Data Black-Hole
But, when coming to research how best to deliver on this he realised there was, what he describes as, a ‘data black hole’.
This is due to the European fixation with Randomised Control Trials in order to satisfy government healthcare agencies – a system which struggles to assimilate cannabis medicine.
He elaborated: “Cannabis is a different type of medicine, the patient has to really figure what works out for themselves.
“It is different to traditional medicine where you tell the doctor what your problem is and he gives you a standardised dose of something and if that doesn’t work you get a standardised dose of something else.
“Cannabis an in iterative process with the patient and because of that you need to capture patient-generated healthcare data, that is where you start with cannabis – it’s not like other medicines.”
Manual To Digital Patient Logs
Mr Sathianathan set about finding a way to illuminate this data darkness.
He continued: “It can take many years for patients to determine what is the right level of cannabis for their condition. With the most sophisticated patients they were recording their usage and its effects on manual logs, on sheets of paper.
“How many hours sleep they would get with a certain dose, what levels do they need to ease their pain, instantly, and to help with their anxiety.
“We listened to a lot of patients and we began to realise that to really tune in, to really understand how these medicines work at the individual level capturing data is necessary, in fact, it is critical.”
While some patients would be having ‘challenging conversations’ with their doctors Mr Sathianathan discovered that the data-driven patients were the ones who found their doctors most responsive.
Engaging with contacts skilled in creating apps similar to Eva, a prototype was developed and subsequently fine-tuned with input from clinicians at Drugs Science and patients from the United Patients Alliance.
It is now being considered for other areas of medicine as society’s emphasis on monitoring personal health and well-being – especially during a global pandemic – develops in the concept of the ‘quantified self’.
There is also a place for Eva in the toolkit of retail CBD users and Mr Sathianathan says it may have most value in the illicit cannabis world. It can be used anonymously and Alta Flora has committed to ensuring Eva is ‘free to all users, forever’.
He added: “There are three questions the health care system is trying to answer and these are; whether cannabis is safe? whether cannabis is effective; efficacious? and three, whether it is cost-effective.
“Eva is able to capture safety and efficacy data at the level of the individual patient at low-cost and and at scale, and that to me is the exciting part of where this shift in technology allows us to go. Answering some of the broader questions in health care around the economics and incentives.”