In the United Kingdom, accessing medical cannabis has long been a challenging endeavor for patients in need. The regulatory framework for medical cannabis is entangled within the existing regulations governing the prescription of unlicensed medications, resulting in a complex, fragmented system. Traditional supply chains, designed for conventional pharmaceuticals, struggle to accommodate the unique demands of medical cannabis, which includes a diverse product range, monthly prescriptions, and potentially high patient volumes. In this context, Script Assist emerges as a transformative solution.
The interview with Ben Hamburger, co-founder and CEO of Script Assist, discusses the inspiration behind Script Assist's creation, which stemmed from personal experiences and the realization of how a B2B platform could positively impact the medical cannabis industry. Script Assist's adaptive approach to regulatory changes and technological innovation is discussed, with Ben expressing the company's commitment to staying at the forefront of industry developments, such as the shift towards digital prescriptions. In essence, Script Assist represents a transformative force in making medical cannabis accessible, regulated, and trustworthy in the UK's healthcare landscape.
Can you provide an overview of Script Assist and its mission in enabling emerging medicine prescribing, particularly in the field of medical cannabis?
Script Assist exists to smooth all of the pain points for doctors, medical cannabis clinics and patients. Medical cannabis is regulated as part of existing regulation in the UK., the same regulation that covers the prescribing of all unlicensed medication. It is, unsurprisingly, also served by the same legacy supply chains that were built to distribute all other unlicensed medication. These supply chains are not built to handle the specific complexities of medical cannabis, including additional pieces of clinical compliance, a much broader product set, monthly prescriptions, and patient volumes potentially in the hundreds of thousands. In general, prescribing unlicensed medication does not require all market participants to use the same or integrated pieces of software to ensure smooth operations.
If a doctor prescribes a single patient a one-off “special” (that for example almost certainly won’t require a Multi-Disciplinary Team review nor be a difficult prescription to ultimately fulfill) it is perfectly adequate for the doctor, the clinic, the patient, the specials distributor and the pharmacy to each use fragmented, non-integrated pieces of software. It’s this fragmentation that kills service levels in the UK medical cannabis industry.
Arjun and I realized, soon after regulation, that a single platform provided on a white-label B2B basis to doctors and medical cannabis clinics, would revolutionize medical cannabis prescribing in the UK. Script Assist solves the fragmentation in the industry through providing doctors and medical cannabis clinics with a single, fully licensed platform that manages all the entire user-journey for doctors, clinic staff and patients. We provide a Web Portal to doctors and medical cannabis clinic staff, and a Patient App to patients.
All of the complex interactions that must be managed between the various participants involved in a patient receiving a medical cannabis prescription are fully digitized, and to a large extent fully automated. It’s a big change.
What inspired you to start this venture?
My co-founder Arjun and I were colleagues at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), working together advising a large corporate client on how to build B2B platform businesses. Whilst we were both part-time entrepreneurs (we each had and have other businesses), we both wanted to be full time entrepreneurs. Medical cannabis had recently been legalized in the UK and Arjun had been trying to get a prescription for his mum, who has had 17 surgeries on her spine after a major car accident.
His mum struggled for a few months with various medical cannabis clinics and the more we spoke about her troubles, and all the benefits that a B2B platform could bring to the industry, the more it started to feel inevitable that we were going to leave BCG to develop Script Assist.
Script Assist is licensed by the Home Office, MHRA, and GPhC. Can you explain the significance of these licenses in the context of your platform and how they contribute to its credibility and trustworthiness?
I mentioned above that the real patient service killer in this industry is the fragmentation of all the different systems used by the multitude of parties needed to get a single prescription to a patient, and how Script Assist fundamentally exists to integrate all user journeys into a single system so that the various user journeys can all be controlled in an orderly fashion.
Well, in addition to building the technology to enable that to all happen, Script Assist needs to be licensed to be able to undertake each of those activities. We are licensed to hold and dispense controlled medication on both a wholesale and retail basis, in addition to being able to import finished products. This means that when we provide our technology to doctors and medical cannabis clinics on a white-label basis, they can use a fully licensed platform to provide a seamless & compliant experience to their patients.
For sure it should provide comfort to all parties to know that Script Assist is fully licensed by all the required regulatory bodies to undertake all of the activities it enables doctors and medical cannabis clinics to undertake on a B2B basis.
Interestingly the one license we don’t have is a CQC, and this is because we are not a clinic and therefore do not need a CQC. We provide doctors who are covered by a CQC and medical cannabis clinics who have their own CQC with all of the technology that they require to run their businesses.
Script Assist recently conducted CPD training for over 70 doctors in Pain Management, Neurology, and Psychiatry. Could you share some insights into the impact of this training and how it aligns with your company's broader goals?
We’re actually now at over 100 doctors trained in medical cannabis prescribing and have another 30 signed up to a training session for psychiatry in mid-November!
At the heart of unlocking the UK’s medical cannabis industry is ensuring that UK specialist prescribers are not only trained in the fundamentals of prescribing medical cannabis, but that they are doing so in a manner where their clinical risk is being mitigated and their own personal user experience is also first-class!
As with many patients, doctors have come into the sector, and either been concerned with clinical practices or frustrated at the number of errors and supply chain work they are expected to undertake as part of their day-to-day role.
There is no doubt that patient demand in the UK is the same as patient demand all over the world but by ensuring that the market has a pool of trained doctors, both from a fundamentals and accreditation perspective but also from a system perspective we are ensuring that patients can have the access that they require.
The medical cannabis landscape is continuously evolving. How does Script Assist adapt to changes in regulations and medical practices to ensure it remains a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and patients?
Well, you certainly need an ear to the ground in this industry! Fundamentally we own all of the licenses ourselves and can add (or subtract) as regulation changes.
More importantly however, is that we develop all our technology in-house. That means that as the landscape changes we are well placed to adapt quickly. We saw this week for example, that it now appears likely that prescriptions will soon move fully digital. Script Assist will of course be at the forefront of adopting this.
If GP prescribing is ever allowable, we will rapidly develop a set of tools for GPs to access the platform. However the industry changes, our technology first approach enables us to bring the latest solutions to our partners.
In what ways do you see Script Assist contributing to the growth and acceptance of medical cannabis as a viable treatment option in the UK healthcare system, and what are your long-term aspirations for the platform?
We see ourselves as central to the growth and acceptance of medical cannabis as a viable treatment option in the UK healthcare system. For example, Script Assist is the only practical way that independent private prescribers can actually prescribe medical cannabis outside of a medical cannabis clinic. Whilst we work with medical cannabis clinics, our independent prescribers sit as part of generalist private healthcare institutions, rather than within medical cannabis clinics.
It is through educating as many doctors working within the general healthcare system in the UK on both the fundamentals of medical cannabis prescribing, but also on how to use Script Assist to prescribe themselves to their own patients that we will start driving acceptance and mass adoption of medical cannabis in the UK.
It was a great pleasure to have this interview with Ben Hamburger, founder and CEO at Script Assist. Script Assist is a UK Medical Cannabis Prescription Platform. Readers wishing to learn more about Script Assist are advised to check their website.