We speak to Jürgen Bickel, managing director at Storz & Bickel GmbH & Co. KG, who talks to us about the first and, to date, only medical cannabis inhaler on the market.
In 2002, Jürgen Bickel joined Markus Storz, inventor of the VOLCANO Vaporisation System as a partner, and Storz & Bickel GmbH & Co. KG was founded. Together, they established a rapidly-growing international business with highly in demand products and provided the only validated application method for the administration of cannabinoids – through medical cannabis inhalers, which was crucial for the overall acceptance of cannabis as medicine.
With medical cannabis and compliant technology merging at a rapid pace across the globe, here Health Europa explore with Bickel one of the most innovative products in the cannabis industry that is available to patients; the medical cannabis inhaler.
How did you get involved in the cannabis space? What lead to the creation of Storz & Bickel GmbH & Co. KG?
My former partner Markus Storz created his first invention, which was the Volcano Vaporiser. This is a vaporiser with a detachable balloon system that has revolutionised the market and continues to be known as the pioneer of vaporisers.
Storz started the development in 1998, and in 2000 he brought the first series to the market and I was one of his first clients, a year later, him and I joined together to create the company.
Tell me about the technology behind the medical cannabis inhalers
In the nineties, it was realised that cannabis does not need to be combusted. The active ingredients can also be solved by vaporising with hot air and without burning the material. Our company used this concept to develop the Volcano Vaporiser.
Cannabis was traditionally inhaled by smoking. For most patients, this is the simplest and most convenient method because no special device is required. The disadvantage of this method is the inhalation of toxins that are generated when the dried flowers are burned.
Toxic combustion substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), ammonia, and carbon monoxide (can) adversely affect the health of patients. This method is therefore not acceptable for medical use, especially when combustion-free cannabis vaporisers offer an alternative to smoking.
What is the effectiveness of the medical cannabis inhalers? Is the goal short-term pain relief or long-term pain relief?
I would say it is more short-term pain relief. With inhalation, there is rapid onset which comes into effect within one or two minutes. This method of delivering medical cannabis can give patients immediate relief from issues such as acute pain and migraines and at the same time it helps the individual to dose correctly.
To find the correct dose with the inhaler we recommend that patients inhale in small doses and build up their tolerance depending upon how strongly they feel their body reacts to it and how effective the dosage is in treating their condition.
How do you feel your method of drug delivery (through inhalers) compares to other forms of how cannabis is delivered medically?
Vaporisation is the only validated form of administering cannabinoids. If you look at the procedure in Germany for example, cannabis can be currently prescribed as a dried flower to patients, which is essentially an unfinished product. For this method you must go to the pharmacy and purchase a box of dried flowers, which you can then cook with, make tea with, or which you can smoke etc.
However, the inhalation application is the best method to use THC by the patient. It is also more efficient, if you compare it to smoking, you can use the medical cannabis inhaler repeatedly until all the active ingredients are released. Therefore, making use of this application form is far more efficient in terms of gaining the most from the ingredients, moreover the effect of the consumption is very fast.
Are medical cannabis inhalers the best way to deal with the pain relief issue and how does that compare to the current pain relief that is available?
Although this question is best answered by a physician, the pain relief based on client feedback that we have received, is that the method of using medical cannabis inhalers has been working very well and has had very little side effects.
The inhalers have been incredibly effective with pains such as neuropathic pains and have also been effectively used by patients who have had amputation pain i.e. phantom pain. For such patients, the medical cannabis inhaler has reportedly helped with their medication.
Storz & Bickel GmbH & Co. KG
Please note, this article will appear in issue 10 of Health Europa Quarterly, which will be available to read in July 2019.