Siva patches came to be when Sarah Blankinship decided western medicine—and traditional pharmaceuticals—wasn’t going to help her mother recover from a life-threatening stroke, but was rather going to kill her. Sarah, who’s a tech industry veteran, ended up founding RightSciences, a company that engineers clean plant medicine, creating laboratory-grade transdermal patches to provide wellness and relief.
“RightSciences will create a recipe, and then we’ll license that recipe to manufacturers who will make our products,” explains Sarah. “Basically, we make a range of products across plants, including a hemp CBD (cannabidiol) patch, and we market that under the brand name Siva patch.”
HelloMD sat down with Sarah to learn about her journey; how and why she chose to focus on creating transdermal patches via Siva; her company’s philosophy on consistent, mathematical dosing as well as the wide range of conditions the Siva patch has helped with.
Sarah Blankinship: So I was a long-time tech—I like to call it being an intrepreneur—and I love to start up big ideas and programs, but within big technology companies. For example, I worked at Microsoft for about 12 years as a security strategist, and then I moved down to Zynga, a game company down in the Valley for about three years. And I love using data to help people make better business decisions.
So that's my background. And when I was at Zynga, my mom had a massive stroke so she was hospitalized, then came home from the hospital and rehabilitated with over a dozen opioid prescriptions. And really, I can remember the day we sat down around our table. We just dumped out her medicines and started looking at the associated side effects, and all of the things that we had to put into her body to maintain her. And it was uppers and downers and you know, things to loosen up what we were tightening up earlier.
So it just seemed to me that it was going to kill her. And so I knew nothing about cannabis medicine or therapy at the time. I really grew up firmly in the “Just say no” generation, and I just hadn't known anything about that and hadn't known to research it, hadn't had a reason to. So I went to her doctor with a manila envelope full of my own research and just asked if I could do some research on a set of products or products that might work for my mom.
And he was too busy to care. He basically said, “Yeah, go ahead. Do what you need to do. Let me know if you find a new thing. You know, he wasn't going to take the time to know anymore. It wasn't his area of expertise. So he said, “Go find a product for your mom.”
And I went looking in the Colorado market. That's where I was born and raised. And really in my search, I was surprised that I couldn't find a product that I would put on her body, that was clean enough to put on my mom. And I found a transdermal patch, which I thought was the perfect form factor for somebody like my mom.
Lots of chronic pain, but no way to ingest or inhale a solution really. She'd had a tracheotomy, lost the left side to paralysis and other issues. So she needed something that would go through her skin and into her bloodstream directly that was the same every time. And that's one of the things I also had a hard time finding: a product that was made the same way every time—that would go into her body the same way every time.
SB: Primarily cannabis and hemp in Colorado. I was really surprised with the quality issues. People were really not producing good quality products. I was surprised that nobody had to care about good manufacturing processes.
So I called a company in the Midwest that made patch-making equipment, and they happened to have a consulting arm of organic chemists, and they love to do interesting things with chemistry. And they asked if I wanted to partner with them on a prototype. Little did I know that this meant we would have to get this company a DEA certification to even work with the hemp plant material in our lab in Ohio—which they did.
But then it would take us about a year to prototype a hemp CBD patch for my mom. And so when we prototyped the hemp patch for my mom, and it worked so well to relieve her pain with little to no side effects and was able to get her off of most of the other opioids that she was on, that was really the moment for me that I knew we had something that would work for everyone's mom.
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SB: She’s my best consumer. My best beta tester. Whether it’s on the next formulation or form factor or having great suggestions. And she's really opened our eyes into a set of the population that really needs safe access to clean food manufacturing process and plant materials.
For people like our moms that need to know, who are going into a Starbucks in San Francisco or in Shanghai, if they order the same thing in both places, they're getting the same thing every time. So that's one of the reasons that we so love this form factor; it’s because we feel like it's data in and data out.
We can test our oil every time. We test every batch of patches that we make. It's a math equation that we're solving, and what we're coming out with is a milligram per patch that is known every single time. And we can test that every time, too. And if it's not within the milligram range that we need to be, then it doesn't go to market.
So we're really excited about producing this product that is made in a lab that's made consistently with a set of manufacturing processes that's the same across every single lab that makes our product. So that we know what's going on. Your mom and ours gets the same quality, made the same way to the same rigorous standards and testing every single time.
SB: So a transdermal patch is something that we’re becoming more used to in the United States and has been used heavily for thousands of years throughout the world. What a transdermal patch allows is for materials to pass across the dermis—across the layers of the skin—directly into the bloodstream. And then in our bodies’ case, with the hemp CBD patches, our bodies have an endocannabinoid system that receives the plant material and takes it to where it should go.
SB: We formulate our Siva patch with hemp CBD oil, and our CBD oil comes from the great state of Kentucky. It’s extracted using a sophisticated CO2 method that essentially cleans out the oil before we even start to use it.
And then we mix that oil in our lab with a proprietary—what we call, a transfer agent. And that's the agent that essentially carries the plant materials through the skin into the bloodstream. That’s something that we developed in the lab with our chemist partners over time.
We love our formulation. Our customers love our formulation. And the Siva patches are engineered to go into the body over a period of eight hours.
SB: Well, consumers love our patches just for wellness and relief, and really that means something different to everyone. So we've had consumers that need it for maybe a pain that they may have monthly in their bodies.
Or I've had a former colleague who called to say, “Oh, I'm recovering from knee surgery. Send over some patches for the knee surgery.” In one case, one of my friends called me about a month later and said these just got me through my breakup.
So they're good for a range of issues. And some of those issues, we may not even know we need help with. And that’s the beauty of our endocannabinoid system.
It's amazing. I have folks calling me daily. I was sitting in our team meeting yesterday, and two members of our team got text messages during the meeting with testimonials. One was from a mom who has Parkinson's disease; she’d been given the Siva patches, and they worked to minimize her tremors like nothing else had.
Another gave the patches to her mom, and she talks about seeing sort of a spring in her mom’s steps—who’s on her feet a lot of the time—that she hasn't seen in a couple of decades.
You know, I've gone to every startup show and every trade show, and I can't tell you how many times we’ll go to somebody who's clearly in pain and say, “Would you mind just trying this patch for me?” And they’ll look at me with that “I've tried everything” look. “I don't believe you.” And then they come back to me and say, “Oh my gosh, I was able to walk a mile on my knee, and I haven't done that in years.”
From weekend warriors with a hangover to people with very serious chronic ailments, these little nuggets, really provide some help all across the spectrum. And we just love that. That's a soft pillow to sleep on at night.