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New research finds that synthetic cannabinoids could treat COVID-19 symptoms. Cannabis-based medicine has been in the news recently as a promising source for medication that could reduce the spread of the virus among humans and provide symptomatic relief.
Anti-Inflammatory Treatment for Cytokine Storms
FSD Pharma, a Philadelphia-based cannabis company, has been given permission by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to submit an Investigational New Drug Application (IND) for a clinical trial using a synthetic cannabinoid-based drug.
Ultramicronized palmitoylethanolamide (micro PEA) is an anti-inflammatory prescription nutraceutical sold in Spain and Italy under the names Pelvilen and Normast, respectively.
PEA has a long history of treating similar infections. Between 1969 and 1979, PEA was sold as Impulsin in former Czechoslovakia as a drug to treat influenza and the common cold.
During this time, nearly 4,000 patients participated in six randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials. The studies found that PEA had significant prophylactic effects in respiratory infections and is relatively safe to use.
FSD bought the rights for micro PEA from Epitech Group, an Italian pharmaceutical company, for $17.5 million. FSD rebranded the drug as FSD-201 and holds the patents for the drug until 2034.
FSD-201 is “a naturally occurring fatty acid,” similar to endocannabinoids that target CB2 receptors, which are known to modulate the body’s inflammatory and pain response.
FSD Executive Co-chairman and CEO Raza Bokhari said in an interview:
“Severe COVID-19 is characterized by an over-exuberant inflammatory response that may lead to a cytokine storm. [FSD-201] is not a virus killer. But we believe it can mitigate that immune response, which can be fatal.”
Cytokines are proteins that fight off invading viruses. Overproduction of cytokines, known as a storm, can have a double-edged effect and damage the body’s cells and tissues.
FDS is performing a Phase 1 clinical trial in Australia. The company will seek approval to conduct clinical trials in the U.S. if the Australian study yields positive results.
The U.S. trial is expected to be a randomized, controlled, double-blind multicenter study to determine the efficacy and safety of FSD-201 dosed 600 mg or 1,200 mg twice a day. The 14-day study will determine if the drug shortens the duration of COVID-19 symptoms.
While not an indicator of the drug’s success, shares in FDS Pharma (NASDAQ:HUGE) shot up 324 percent after the firm gained approval from the FDA to submit an IND.
Investors should temper their expectations. Dan Hoffman, pharmaceutical industry consultant told the Inquirer, “If they’re just getting ready to request authorization for starting clinical trials, [FDS Pharma is] going to be well behind any number of companies to control cytokine storms.”
Research Finds THC, CBD, and Terpenes Could Treat COVID-19
Similarly, a new study published in Preprints suggested that extracts containing CBD or THC could reduce the spread of coronavirus among humans. How? Cannabinoids are thought to lower the production of a couple of proteins used by the coronavirus to create an infection.
Conducted under a Health Canada research license, the study found that cannabinoids could reduce the production of angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) and the serine protease TMPRSS2 proteins.
Research in Preprints does not have to be peer-reviewed, which means more clinical trials are needed to discover which cannabinoids (or terpenes) are affecting the target proteins and how effective they are as an adjunct therapy.
A new study from the University of Lethbridge further cements the idea of cannabis as a coronavirus medicine. Researchers found that some high-CBD sativa strains of cannabis inhibited viral activity caused by the coronavirus.
Researchers injected various extracts of sativa cannabis into synthetic human tissues containing ACE2. Some cannabis strains decreased viral receptor activity by 73 percent meaning a person reduced their risk of infection.
Additional research in Israel is showing hopeful results. Previous research on the SARS virus in 2002 showed that terpenes could have an antiviral effect.
Cannabis research company CannaSoul Analytics is working on a formulation that can be taken through direct inhalation. Studies will test if the drug can “lower the immune response without suppressing it” and its effects on ACE2.
The Race for a COVID-19 Vaccine
Cannabis-based components are believed to lead to a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Infection disease researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada think they may be on to building a COVID-19 vaccine using a plant-based antigen.
Plant-based antigens are thought to be easier to manufacture on a commercial scale than animal-based antigens due to their ability to clone proteins better. Zyus Life Sciences has partnered with the university to develop proteins for a vaccine using the cannabis plant.
COVID-19 has been a devastating blow to global health and economies. Cannabis, however, has been thrust into the spotlight as a possible treatment form that could curb the spread of the virus and complement standard treatment.
Cannabis continues to reveal new medicinal uses, which could hopefully make a dent in treating coronavirus symptoms. To find out more about the latest scientific advancements or learn more about the cannabis industry, sign up for CTU’s online marijuana college. Learn more here.
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