VR: how a headset changed a mindset

Aaron Sidorov

Aaron Sidorov

How do you persuade a massively sceptical medical profession that marijuana can significantly help epileptic patients? Be totally transparent by getting them to don a Virtual Reality (VR) headset demonstrating your methods.

That is how biopharmaceutical firm Greenwich Biosciences got US physicians to give the thumbs-up to Epidiolex, the brand name of the once-controversial anti-epileptic drug (AED) that received the approval of the Food and Drug Administration regulator after more than 20 years’ research.

Epidiolex became commercially available by prescription in November last year and the Cannes Lions session called CBD & The Marijuana Revolution: From Stigma to Serious Medicine explained how its creators had to overcome doubts even after it became legal.

“How do you treat a child with CBD (the cannibidiol extracted from cannabis plants), an illegal drug that has never been officially studied?” said speaker Julie Baker, Epidiolex’s senior marketing director, about the challenges faced before regulatory agreement. “And even FDA approval didn’t mean general acceptance.”

To overcome those hurdles and win doctors’ trust, Greenwich Biosciences collaborated with New York-based health creative agency The Bloc, and Pebble Studios, the UK VR-production firm, to produce a piece of immersive content that explained and exposed every aspect of how Epidiolex is manufactured.

“We gave doctors VR headsets not only to immerse themselves in our manufacturing labs,” said Aaron Sidorov, The Bloc’s SVP and creative director.

“They used it to inspect and follow each marijuana plant on its journey from the greenhouse to becoming a medicine. We wanted to tell a story that showed that we had absolutely nothing to hide.”

Harriet Palmer