ATLANTA and PITTSBURGH, Aug. 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -PRESS RELEASE- Today, the University of Pittsburgh and Parallel, a cannabis brand, announced a relationship to establish a clinical research program to study medical marijuana.
As part of a 10-year agreement, Parallel, through Goodblend, its retail brand, will provide the university an initial $3 million in unrestricted grants to be used for the exploration of the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis with an initial focus on treating sickle cell disease symptoms. Parallel will also dispense cutting-edge cannabis formulations to research study participants. Subsequent research will address other chronic conditions, most notably generalized anxiety disorders and chronic intractable pain.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is one of eight Pennsylvania academic research universities approved to conduct clinical research in association with the commonwealth's medical marijuana program. With Pennsylvania's approval of this medical cannabis research partnership, Parallel was also granted a license to grow and process cannabis and open up to six retail locations across the state.
"The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine sees great value in the partnership with Parallel for the residents of the commonwealth and beyond," said Anantha Shekhar, senior vice chancellor for health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law emphasizes the need for rigorous research related to the use of medical cannabis. Pitt is taking a leadership role in conducting that research and we look forward to advancing the safety and efficacy of cannabis therapies via scientific rigor. Parallel's focus on the innovation, quality, safety and consistency of its products makes them an ideal partner for Pitt's research program."
"Parallel is honored to be the medical cannabis partner of the University of Pittsburgh. Their position as one of the leading global medical research institutions will assist us in advancing our medical understanding of the benefits of cannabinoids in treating a wide spectrum of diseases and conditions," said William "Beau" Wrigley, Jr., Parallel chief executive officer. "Parallel is pioneering the development of cannabis therapies through strategic partnerships with leading institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh. We believe that research is essential to optimize the targeted benefits of cannabinoids as they hold great promise to replace pharmaceuticals for numerous conditions. We are honored to have been selected to provide the patients of Pennsylvania with our therapies to help improve their well-being."
Pitt will begin its medical marijuana research program with a clinical trial in patients who suffer from sickle cell disease (SCD). This program will be led Dr. Laura DeCastro MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Translational Research for the Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence. The trial will investigate what role cannabis can play in treating the symptoms of SCD, a red blood cell disorder characterized by anemia and pain due to the obstruction of blood vessels by rigid and adhesive red blood cells. Approximately 100,000 Americans suffer from SCD, which is associated with a median life expectancy of 45 years and which disproportionately affects African Americans. About 15% of sickle cell patients suffer chronic pain, which is typically treated with opioids. This class of drugs often fails to completely control pain and comes with serious side effects. Pain and other clinical complications are responsible for frequent hospitalizations of those with SCD and lifetime undiscounted health care costs amount to nearly $1 million per patient.
"Patients with sickle cell disease and chronic pain have no real alternative to chronic opioid therapy, which has severe limitations and disadvantages," said Laura DeCastro, MD, MBBS and Pitt associate professor of medicine, director of benign hematology for the Institute for Transfusion Medicine and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and director of Clinical Translational Research for the Sickle Cell Disease Research Center of Excellence. "We are proud to have this opportunity to study potential cannabis treatments for these patients who live in constant debilitating pain."
"Our partnership with the University of Pittsburgh aligns with our mission of promoting well-being for all and to provide access and treatment options to communities who need it most," said Wrigley. "SCD is a devastating disease that has impacted many African American families, both medically and financially, and we are hopeful that our research partnership with Pitt will help to improve outcomes through cannabis."