Canadian drug store chain Shoppers Drug Mart is expanding its e-commerce medical cannabis program and piloting a blockchain technology program to trace medical cannabis.
The chain of nearly 1,300 Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix stores launched its Medical Cannabis by Shoppersprogram in January, 2019, for customers in Ontario. In April, it expanded the program to patients in Alberta.
Under current rules in Canada, pharmacists cannot dispense medical cannabis from a pharmacy. However, via the chain’s web site, “patients have access to a number of products from Canadian licensed producers, shipped directly and discreetly to their doorstep,” Catherine Thomas, senior director of external communications for Loblaw, tells Drug Topics.
Shoppers Drug Mart also provides support for patients through the Shoppers Cannabis Care Centre, a virtual team of professionals who can provide counseling and support for patients, Thomas says.
Now, Shoppers Drug Mart is partnering with software company TruTrace Technologies to develop and deploy a blockchain-secured pilot program intended to increase transparency, interoperability, and product identification within the medical cannabis industry.
The pilot program will use TruTrace’s StrainSecure technology as a central hub for identity management, asset tracking, validation, and product authentication. StrainSecure will also serve as a master registry for standardized testing, product verification, and quality assurance, says Shoppers Drug Mart in a statement.
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“We’ve gone to great lengths over the past six years to fully understand the challenges and opportunities that exist within the medical cannabis industry and taken steps to apply similar principles from traditional medicine to this new industry. The source of medical cannabis must be traceable and accountable for patients and practitioners to feel confident about it as a treatment,” says Ken Weisbrod, vice president of Shoppers Drug Mart.
“When a patient takes medication, there is an expectation that it is standardized, and they can expect consistent clinical outcomes and results. Although that’s not always a guarantee within the medical cannabis industry at the moment, we’re hoping this new program can help change that,” Weisbrod adds.
The pilot program should help researchers and clinicians to match therapeutic outcomes to specific genetic and chemical profiles, "and provide physicians, pharmacists, and patients with greater confidence in the products they prescribe or consume,” says Robert Galarza, CEO of TruTrace Technologies.
Phase 1 of the pilot program is expected to be completed by July 31, with full production and implementation targeted for late November 2019.