Is safety a concern?
Safety questions are expected to arise, especially in relation to COVID-19. CBD is not risk free, and one size does not fit all. Human CBD studies report gastrointestinal and somnolent effects, as well as drug-drug interactions.
Findings from a recent systematic review of randomized, controlled CBD trials support overall tolerability, suggesting that serious adverse events are rare. Such events are believed to be related to drug-drug interactions rather than to CBD itself. On the flip side, it is nonintoxicating, and there does not appear to be potential for abuse.
“It’s generally well tolerated,” Wilkerson said. “There’ve now been several clinical trials in numerous patient population settings where basically the only time you really start to have issues is where you have patients on very select agents. But this is where a pharmacist would come into play.”
Costiniuk agreed: “Just because it’s cannabis, it doesn’t mean that there’s going to be strange or unusual effects; these people [ie, those with severe COVID-19] are in the hospital and monitored very closely.”
Delving into the weeds: What’s next?
Although non-COVID-19 cannabinoid researchers have encountered regulatory roadblocks, several research groups that have had the prescience to dive in at the right time are gaining momentum.
Baban’s team has connected with one of the nation’s few academic laboratories authorized to work with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and are awaiting protocol approval so that they can reproduce their research, this time using two CBD formulations (injectable and inhaled).
If findings are positive, they will move forward quickly to meet with the FDA, Baban said, adding that the team is also collaborating with two organizations to conduct human clinical trials in hopes of pushing up timing.
The initial article caught the eye of the World Health Organization, which included it in its global literature on the coronavirus resource section.
Israeli researchers have also been quite busy. InnoCan Pharma and Tel Aviv University are collaborating to explore the potential for CBD-loaded exosomes (minute extracellular particles that mediate intracellular communication, including via innate and adaptive immune responses). The group plans to use these loaded exosomes to target and facilitate recovery of COVID-19–damaged lung cells.
From a broader perspective, the prospects for harnessing cannabinoids for immune modulation will be more thoroughly explored in a special issue of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, which has extended its current call for papers, studies, abstracts, and conference proceedings until the end of December.
Like many of the therapeutic strategies under investigation for the treatment of COVID-19, studies in CBD may continue to raise more questions than answers.
Still, Wilkerson is optimistic. “Taken together, these studies along with countless others suggest that the complex pharmacophore of Cannabis sativa may hold therapeutic utility to treat lung inflammation, such as what is seen in a COVID-19 cytokine storm,» she told Medscape Medical News. “I’m very excited to see what comes out of the research.”
Baban, Wilkerson, and Costiniuk have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
This article first appeared on Medscape.com.