I don’t think anyone would deny that innovation is key to propelling a nascent, disorganized and immature industry into one that shows signs of longevity, impact and importance. That is to say, industries do not mature (tech, manufacturing, etc.) without many smart people who push the envelope aggressively to drive breakthroughs from the mediocrity or ignorance (in a non-pejorative sense) of first movers. Conversely, those first movers can/should be hailed as pioneers. So despite a sense of “if only we knew then what we know now,” there is great credit due for those who have the vision, the bravery and the sheer strength of will to start an industry.
However, innovation evolutions also come with their own set of challenges. Namely, there are few guidelines and scant infrastructure to provide guidance and guard rails as things change and evolve.
For any industry, controls are essential. Look no further than electronic scooters to see how a potentially great innovation/industry can suffer when controls are not in place to keep consumers safe. Given the novelty of plant-based medicine, it is even more prone to the need for controls. One of the current targets of many regulators’ and consumers’ ire is the venerable vape pen. For example, even ahead of the most recent spate of bad PR for vapes, Ohio regulators began requiring any vaping/inhalation device to have both a dosing mechanism and a design that separates the plant material from the heating element. It’s a tough regulation for many, but it is the right direction for regulators to push if they want to ensure the safest products that can offer consumers the greatest amount of control.
Meanwhile, consumers have begun, on their own, to demand greater clarity around vaporization dosage. And there is no shortage of companies looking to stand up and take credit for delivering on that requirement. The issue is, as mentioned earlier, innovation is often born of chaos … and that’s where we are with “dosed” vaporizers today. Few companies understand exactly what precise dosing means or how it can be accomplished. Vaporization products currently on the market approach dosing purely through an inhalation lens, either by forcing a timed inhalation or by measuring a dose by volume of air inhaled. Neither of these approaches comes close to providing an accurate and repeatable dosing experience (even when they are combined).
In order for plant-based medicine to become a viable solution for a greater swath of the population (i.e., mainstream health and wellness), three control criteria must be met: quantity, potency and frequency. Physicians require those criteria to prescribe an exact, measured dose of a specific medical formulation at predetermined intervals. And consumers/patients want to be able to predict how they will feel, based on potency, frequency and specific dose size. There is a tremendous fear factor for new patients/consumers, despite the efficacy that vaping can provide.
The bottom line is that, as plant-based medicines continue to prove efficacy and provide relief, we as an industry cannot risk misinformation derailing success and growth. For every patient, physician and clinician that picks up a “metered dose” device only to find that it lacks many, if not all of the criteria necessary for true measurement, we have likely lost a potential advocate at best. And at worst, we have reinforced some of the most negative stereotypes surrounding this industry.
We are at a momentous, yet precarious time in our growth — and all eyes are upon us. We can no longer allow quasi-science, inaccurate measurement and slick consumer marketing to masquerade as “innovation,” jeopardizing our future. As “dosing” of vapor continues to gain momentum, we must stop providing misinformation and instead, create real tools for patients, physicians and clinicians alike. And we must hold each other accountable to a higher standard that requires us to do the hard work to bring true innovation to a market ripe with opportunity and desperately in need of change that can create a healthcare revolution. Now is the time to set standards for ourselves, holding each other accountable. Otherwise, regulators will do it for us (see: Ohio) and history has shown that we might not like those outcomes.