Scientists around the world are starting to look even further afield for potential uses of cannabis in medical applications. For example, new trials are starting into the ability of cannabinoids to treat the symptoms of long Covid-19, Alzheimer’s-related agitation, and pain resulting from HIV.
Australian medical cannabis company Bod Australia is starting a phase 2 clinical trial into the safety and efficacy of its CBD-dominant medicinal cannabis product, MediCabilis 5%, in treating the symptoms of long Covid-19.
In the trial, 30 patients over 18 years old with long Covid-19 will be given MediCabilis every day for six months. Each patient will need to self-report daily and monthly through a smartphone application to analyse common long Covid-19 symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, impaired cognition, and pain.
MediCabilis is currently used to treat conditions such as anxiety, chronic pain, and sleep disorders, which are also common in long Covid-19 patients.
Bod Australia’s CEO, Jo Patterson, said: “While there aren’t any existing treatments for long Covid-19, our medicinal cannabis products have been used to treat and alleviate a number of similar conditions.
“We anticipate that this clinical trial will provide us with great insight into its potential to treat long Covid-19 and build on the body of evidence for the use of cannabis-based medicines, in place of other pharmaceuticals.
“We will utilise the data generated to gain a better understanding of whether MediCabilis can be used as a potential treatment and how we can expedite further product commercialisation, which will underpin ongoing sales growth.”
The trial, which is in collaboration with Drug Science UK, will also assess the feasibility of recruiting and retaining individuals diagnosed with long Covid-19 into a treatment trial of medicinal cannabis, as well as assessing the safety and tolerability of a dominant medicinal cannabis in this population.
The study follows recent news that research by a group of scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) in the US, Cannabinoids Block Cellular Entry of SARS-CoV-2 and the Emerging Variants, found that hemp-derived cannabinoids had the ability to block Covid-19.
The study was led by Richard van Breemen, a researcher with OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, who will now lead pre-clinical studies to prove the efficacy of this discovery.
US university investigates managing HIV-related pain
Meanwhile, a team of researchers from the University of Mississippi have been awarded a $1.37m grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to study the pain relief potential of cannabis when used on patients who are HIV-positive.
The team will screen and identify cannabinoids with known anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
Nicole Ashpole, an assistant professor of pharmacology at the university, said: “Cannabis has hundreds of compounds in it other than THC and CBD, and we don’t know much about how these compounds might affect the human body.
“By exploring the effects of these compounds against HIV pain, we can gain insight into their potential benefits or risks in numerous other inflammatory disease states.”
The team will investigate how cannabis can impact HIV-related pain.
Jason Paris of the department of biomolecular sciences said: “Our preliminary data suggests that some of the non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis can reduce inflammation in the central nervous system and HIV-related pain using in vivo models,”
Researchers say they are focusing on HIV patients because they “use cannabis more frequently than the uninfected population”, and some patients have reported that “cannabis manages their chronic pain”.
Israel’s look into cannabinoids and Alzheimer’s disease
Also exploring the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids is Israeli pharmaceutical company SciSparc, which is partnering with the Israeli Medical Center for Alzheimer’s to run a clinical trial into the impact of its cannabinoid-based technology on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and agitation.
SciSparc’s SCI-110 drug focuses on the development of therapies to treat disorders of the central nervous system and is a combination of dronabinol (synthetic delta-9 THC) and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA).
The trial will evaluate the safety of SCI-110 and its ability to ameliorate agitation and other behavioural disturbances in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
“As the population of the world continues to age,” said SciSparc CTO Adi Zuloff-Shani, “Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common diseases affecting the elderly, and subsequently the number of patients suffering from agitation also dramatically increases. Unfortunately, patients have very limited efficient treatments available today and those available can cause side-effects, like drowsiness, rigidity and unusual movements.”
US National Football League looks into pain management
The ability of cannabinoids to manage pain has led the US National Football League (NFL) to donate USD1m to researchers at the University of California (UC) San Diego and the University of Regina (Canada) who are investigating the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection from concussion in NFL players. The awards are part of the NFL-NFL Players Association Joint Pain Management Committee, which aims to facilitate research to better understand and improve potential alternative pain management treatments for NFL players.
Mark Wallace, co-principal investigator and director of the Center for Pain Medicine at UC San Diego Health, said the researchers will “conduct a systematic, ‘real-world, real-time’ study with professional athletes … which should shed further light upon the many anecdotal reports that cannabis is helpful in reducing post-competition pain”.
According to a UC San Diego research abstract via the NFL: “The primary aim of this clinical trial is to assess the therapeutic efficacy and adverse effects of [delta-9 THC], cannabidiol (CBD), and combined THC/CBD, compared to placebo, for relief of post-competition soft-tissue injury pain in elite athletes. Elite athletes will vaporize treatments following game-related injuries, with outcomes monitored via remote phone apps.”
– Lorraine Mullaney CBD-Intel staff