Althea patient base surpassed 4,000 in 2019

Althea patient base surpassed 4,000 in 2019

Medicinal cannabis company Althea (ASX: AGH) had a stellar finish to an eventful 2019 with more than 4,000 patients prescribed in Australia.

Founded by Joshua Fegan (pictured), who won Trailblazer of the Year at the Melbourne Young Entrepreneur Awards 2019, the company today reported 4,018 patients were prescribed to Althea's CBD formulations as at 31 December 2019.

Althea reports an average of 36 new patients were added each business day in December, up 48 per cent month-on-month.

The company now also has 432 health care professionals prescribing its products, compared to around 390 at the end of November and just above 70 in December 2018.

"Mid-way through 2019 we set a target of 4,000 patients by the end of the year and by mid-December, we were well placed to reach it," says Fegan.

"We now have our sights set on a strong 2020 where we once again expect to see significant patient and prescriber growth."

In November Fegan announced he would be relocating to London to focus on Althea's growing businesses in the UK and continental Europe. A spokesperson recently told Business News Australia he was still in the country but his relocation was "not too far away".

Fegan previously told Business News Australia the company's approach was to "look and move like big pharma" with its products, educating doctors about the health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) and providing a web-based technology platform Althea Concierge to assist health professionals and patients alike.

Now the company's official messaging is falling into line with that strategy, describing itself as a "pharmaceutical company" in its first announcement of 2020.

This pivot may have something to do with the negative connotations of a medicinal cannabis industry which saw its stock values plummet worldwide last year, including Althea whose share price quadrupled from January to July before dropping dramatically by the year's end.

This was exacerbated by major Canadian investor Aphria dumping 37 million shares in October. Overall, AGH shares were up 24 per cent at 36 cents each by the end of the calendar year.

While it isn't reflected in the share price, Althea had much to celebrate last year - not only were its patient numbers growing at home but it recorded its first patient prescription in the UK, made positive inroads in Canada with the acquisition of Peak Processing Solutions and broke into the German market.

Fegan made the top 20 in Australia's Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs list for 2019, while Althea ranked highly amongst the country's top 20 cannabis companies.

Althea shares rose slightly on the news this morning but are now flat at 46 cents each.

Medicinal cannabis sector update

Elsewhere in the industry, share prices rose for ASX-listed cannabis stocks Cann Group (ASX: CAN), IDT Australia (ASX: IDT) and MGC Pharmaceuticals (ASX: MXC) following positive developments.

Cann and IDT jointly announced good manufacturing practice (GMP) extraction activities had commenced for their first batches of medicinal cannabis resin, taken from crops produced at Cann Group's Australian cultivation facilities.

The news, which represents the first commercial-scale resin extraction from Australian-grown cultivars, sent CAN and IDT shares higher by 3.4 per cent and 14.3 per cent respectively by noon AEDT.

Once formulated and packed, the cannabis oil products will undergo stability testing to support a targeted commercial release in late March, which will be available via the Special Access Scheme (SAS) to Australian prescribers and patients, as well as through export programs for overseas customers.

"This facilitates the manufacture of finished product formulations and puts us a step closer to launching our own locally sourced and produced range of medicinal cannabis treatments to satisfy both domestic demand and to help develop valuable export pathways," says Cann Group CEO Peter Crock.

"IDT's GMP extraction of medicinal cannabis resin on a commercial-scale represents tangible evidence of IDT executing on its Medicinal Cannabis Manufacturing Plan and a key step in establishing IDT's Boronia manufacturing campus to convert commercial quantities of medicinal cannabis biomass into a range of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API's) and Finished Dosage Forms," adds IDT CEO David Sparling.

Meanwhile, Europe-based MGC Pharma has announced the launch of a new proprietary affordable prescription medicine line for Australia and New Zealand, which will be branded as Mercury Pharma.

The first product will be "Mercury Pharma 100" ('MP100'), a 100mg/mL CBD solution that will be prescribed by health care professionals in Australia and New Zealand, initially distributed by Australian medicinal cannabis distribution and logistics specialist Cannvalate and Health House International in due course.

Purchase orders for MP100 already received have totalled more than 2,000 units to be delivered in January and February, which will deliver an immediate and positive impact on the Company's first quarter 2020 revenue.

"The launch of Mercury Pharma brand and "MP100" so early in 2020 bodes well for the year ahead as MGC Pharma continues to follow its agenda to provide cost effective affordable standardised phytocannabinoid based medicines to patients globally," says MGC Pharma co-founder and managing director Roby Zomer.

"The Mercury Pharma brand brings an alternative affordable high CBD prescription medicine to the Australian and New Zealand markets only, as well as adding a new product line to MGC Pharma's offering.

"Without competing with our existing EU GMP Pharma grade medicines, we believe we will be a serious competitor for already available cannabis derived products, and look to disrupt the market."

Cannvalate COO Darryl Davies says his company is delighted to introduce MGC Pharma's latest range across its network.

"MP100 is a high-quality, cost effective medication option that we expect to be extremely well received by both prescribing physicians and patients," he says.

"MXC continue to work towards lowering barriers for Australian patients and we expect this will be the start of significant growth in patient numbers for 2020."

MXC shares were up 6.25 per cent at 3.4 cents each at noon AEDT.

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