Technology: Strainprint Brings Analytics to Medical Cannabis Marketplace
App Allows Users to Create a Mobile Journal of Cannabis Use Data
In medicine, credibility often lies in the science. With medical cannabis, scientific evidence can be hard to find, but Canadian company Strainprint Technologies applies a magnifying glass and algorithms with a platform that provides science-based data analysis to assist with the decision-making process for patients, producers, clinicians, regulators, and researchers.
What’s unique is that Strainprint provides demand-side cannabis data analysis designed to help users decide what strain of medical cannabis they should be using, what medical providers should be recommending, and what producers should be creating depending on their markets.
“Other data companies in the cannabis space work in supply-side analysis,” says David Berg, president and chief technology officer of Strainprint. “We look at the demand side and how cannabis use impacts the consumer. We’re a company founded by patients, for patients, so we designed a series of customer-centric tools to provide real-world evidence-based guidance. We put the patient first.”
With a lack of research and clinical trials in the cannabis marketplace, Berg says it’s been difficult to determine best practices for what products to recommend, how to improve therapeutic bio-accessibility, and how to make overall decisions for what’s best for patients. That’s why he and his Strainprint partners set out in 2016 to provide a data resource for producers, clinics, and researchers to use to make informed decisions. Strainprint’s analytics platform was introduced to the market in 2017.
Strainprint uses anonymous, real-time patient data reported by patients. The application utilizes more than 1.6 million patient outcomes collected since 2016 from 3,800 different lab-verified cannabis products and more than 25,000 patient-entered products. It’s built a real-world evidence dataset with more than 80 million data points on use profiling and product strain efficacy.
“The system is based on statistically validated real-world evidence, not anecdotal reviews,” Berg says.
There are two aspects to Strainprint—a patient side and an industry/clinical side. For patients, there’s a mobile app that can be downloaded for free on Apple or Android mobile devices. Once the app is loaded, patients log in when they’re ready to medicate, select the symptom they would like to treat, and create a library of the products they own. Strainprint tracks the patients’ usage, including feedback rating how good a particular strain is and what dose and administration method worked for them.
Once all patient information is entered, the app summarizes the data, makes it anonymous, and stores it in a secure, cloud-based network that utilizes military-grade encryption and meets all confidentiality requirements of Canadian, US, and European health agencies (HIPAA, PIPEDA, and PHIPA).
Making a Difference
With this mobile patient journal, users can search past sessions by effects or symptoms. They can learn which strain types or products worked best for them, see which ingestion methods and dose amounts were efficacious, and compare strains/products for targeted application. This personal treatment log can be shared securely with health care providers directly from the mobile app.
As an incentive to use the app, each tracked patient session generates loyalty points called Strainpoints, which can be redeemed. Rewards can include discounts on products, including t-shirts, vaporizers, and rolling trays. To date, Berg notes, there have been 5,000 redemptions.
As an example of how the app works, Berg referenced patients suffering from knee pain. The patients rank the severity of the pain, selects the products purchased, and how much was used. After about 20 minutes—the time it takes for most methods of administering medical cannabis—the patients receive a “push” notification asking how they feel.
“This enables us to gather information on the emotive effects of the particular strain of cannabis the patient used,” he says. “We’re able to gather about 60 data points for different symptoms, and track about 300 different conditions. Analysis like this provides information on cannabis use that is important in an application to medicine.”
With Strainprint based in Toronto, Canada, the data are classified at rest on Canadian servers. This provides an additional layer of security for patients due to Canada’s more stringent privacy laws. Canada’s legal cannabis program is supported by a standardized lab and testing regimen that sets the bar for testing standards globally. This results in greater standardization of products from which study and analysis is based.”
“In Canada, medical marijuana is regulated by the national government,” Berg says. “The government maintains high standards designed to protect the health and safety of patients. There is a system of quality assurance standards that is unlike any other place. Producers must be licensed.”
Having a standardized system made it easier for Strainprint developers to gather valid data.
“There is a certificate of analysis that we enter into our system from each supplier as we gather our data,” Berg says.
A certificate of analysis is a quality assurance document that confirms that a regulated product meets its product specification. The document contains actual results obtained from testing performed as part of the quality control of an individual product batch (cannabinoids, terpenes, carrier oils, batch, and lot numbers). Having this level of certification is key when it comes to the validity of the data gathered.
Strainprint’s data organization strength also comes into play when the app is used in locations such as the United States, where products can have the same names, but when produced in different states, can have different effectiveness and side effects. A Girl Scout Cookie, for example, isn’t necessarily the same product from one state to the next.
“The United States is an interesting market,” Berg says. “It’s not one market like it is in Canada, but 33 markets, each with its own characteristics. In the United States, regulation is overseen by individual states. Each state represents an individual market, with its own defined medical programs.
“In addition,” Berg adds, “cultivators in Florida deal with different weather and production methods or inputs than cultivators in Michigan, so the same strain grown in each market will be different. Having a baseline for comparison is important for consumers. Strainprint data will take those differences into consideration, enabling a better comparison.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges in Canada, where producers are restricted from making representations about their products.
“Data from Strainprint provides them with the validation necessary to promote their products’ effectiveness,” Berg says.
In addition to helping patients and clinicians make the best medical choices, Strainprint also utilizes anonymized user information as the basis for its analytics platform, Strainprint Analytics. This is a web-based subscription service for use by clinics, pharmacies, licensed producers, researchers, physicians, and governments. These real-time data help users make informed decisions about what to grow, what to recommend, and any trends.
“Users of the analytics platform can learn which products are being used in their areas, they can see how many people are using a particular product, they can see what conditions the product is being used for, what dosages people are using, and what results they’re getting,” Berg says. “Retailers can gain an understanding of customers preferences, and patients get the benefit of getting the right product for their needs. Pharmacologists and growers can also track data to help drive genetic selection or compounded product formulations.”
The relationship between the app and the analytics allows for crowdsourcing, with users inputting their experiences and the analytics taking those data and producing valuable information that can help guide future decision-making within the medical cannabis industry. This market research enables users to learn more about products, and businesses to identify patterns for their products. Physicians and researchers can find solutions to their patients’ needs. Government agencies can use the information as a resource for developing policy, as well as advancing clinical trials.
“Regulators can use this data analysis to monitor the health interests of a particular population,” he says. “They can see how well the product is working, or if there any adverse interactions, within a particular demographic.”
Berg’s history with medical marijuana dates back to the birth of his second son. The child was diagnosed with pediatric Crohn’s disease, a rare inflammatory bowel disease characterized by severe chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall or any portion of the gastrointestinal tract.
“Crohn’s is an invisible disease that has a huge impact on the everyday life of patients with the affliction,” he says. “And the current best-in-class therapies based on biologics can lead to some scary side effects, including lymphoma.”
Berg began researching alternative treatments for his son, at which time he learned more about the use of cannabis for inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s, colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
“My doctor didn’t agree with my findings, so I continued to look for resources that would provide me with data in support of alternative treatments for my son,” he says.
At the same time, Berg met his current partners, including Stephanie Karasick, who was journaling her own experiences with medical cannabis as a form of treatment for her PTSD symptoms. She noted the different strains she was using, consumption methods and how they affected her, and overall outcomes. Together with their other partners—Andrew Muroff and Evan Karasick—they developed the Strainprint solution.
“Our goal is to improve the health and well-being of patients through mindful medication and data-backed guidance,” Berg says. “Real-world evidence is a key tool in decoding the benefits of cannabis.”
— Kathy Hardy is a freelance writer based in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.