Most patients recovered within a few weeks, although doctors caution that the study was too small to be conclusive.
The majority of seriously ill COVID-19 patients given CBD to calm inflammation were released from the hospital in under a month, in a trial conducted recently at an Israeli hospital.
The initial findings, stated an announcement by Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah, Israel, indicate that CBD “has a positive impact on a number of inflammatory markers that occur with Corona patients.”
A cytokine storm, the body’s overreaction to infection, contributes to the mortality of COVID-19 patients, the announcement explained. This study was meant to test the efficacy and safety of CBD in reducing that “turbulent inflammatory process.”
Immune Response to Cannabis
The cannabinoids in cannabis can modulate the body’s immune responses through their interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
Of the 11 patients in the trial, eight were released from hospital within 7-30 days, though the other three participants died from COVID-19 complications.
The researchers, Dr. Moshe Yeshurun, the head of the bone marrow transplant unit at the facility, along with Dr. Ilia Kagan, the head of the respiratory intensive care unit, cautioned that the small number of participants precluded them from “drawing firm conclusions about the effect of CBD on the course of the disease.”
The results do, however, justify further research including larger numbers of patients and a control group in order to better assess patient outcomes.
Previous research by Dr. Yeshurun showed that “cannabidiol significantly reduces infectious disease in patients who went through a bone marrow transplant,” the hospital’s announcement stated.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News this week, Dr. Kagan stated that, “to our surprise, after the treatment the condition of some of the seriously ill patients improved and their decline halted — though we cannot determine unequivocally if the improvement was solely due to the cannabis.”
He added that they now intend to recruit more patients for the next phase of the study to gather evidence that could bolster those conclusions.
In April 2020, not long after COVID-19 became a global pandemic, a number of Israeli research labs launched studies to examine the use of cannabis-derived treatments in treating the symptoms of the disease. InnoCan Pharma announced that its subsidiary, InnoCan Pharma Ltd. of Herzliya, has began a collaboration with Tel Aviv University to develop a treatment to fight COVID-19 using cannabidiol (CBD) loaded exosomes — small structures attached to cells that are created when stem cells multiply.
One of those projects included using inhaled CBD-loaded exosomes collaboration to gauge if the cannabinoid can help in the recovery of infected lung cells. Other studies included a trial examining the efficacy of a CBD-steroids combination in fighting COVID-19 and one meant to gauge if the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis could slow down lung infections caused by COVID-19.
That trial was initially be performed on 10 COVID-19 patients who are currently receiving steroid treatments at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center. A press release stated that the trial will be conducted over the course of a few weeks and if the proof of concept is successful, it will be expanded with an additional 40 hospitalised COVID-19 patients.
The press release stated that “steroid treatment is usually the first or second line of treatment of hospitalized patients. CBD enhances the therapeutic effect of steroid treatment and treats the bio-mechanism affected by the virus.”
That trial is being conducted by Israel-based CBD R&D company Stero Biotechs in collaboration with its main partner and shareholder, Mor Research Applications, the TTO (technology transfer office) of Clalit, the largest HMO in Israel.
Cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties
The third study is examining whether cannabis — because of its anti-inflammatory properties — could slow down the lung infections experienced by many COVID-19 patients.
Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center launched the study to test the effectiveness of cannabis in treating COVID-19 patients with moderate symptoms, according to a report by Israel’s Channel 12 news.
Professor Alon Grosman, head of internal medicine at Beilinson Hospital, told Channel 12’s Yoav Even “we know that cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties and if it succeeds in stopping the cytokine storm [in COVID-19 patients] that would be very big news.”
American neurologist, psychopharmacology and cannabinoid researcher Ethan Russo and his business partner Nishi Whitely announced the founding of a company that aims to develop and commercialize “an eclectic range of cannabinoid-centered innovations with medical, diagnostic and industrial applications,” according to an article in Forbes.