Long Covid and medicinal cannabis: An expert has their say on existing evidence

Bill Turnbull discusses benefits of medicinal cannabis

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Dr Erridge said: “There is some pre-clinical evidence which has sought to assess whether cannabidiol and other aspects of cannabis can affect the way that the Covid virus binds to specific receptors in the lungs.

“That’s really preliminary and nothing has really moved on from there.”

On long Covid Dr Erridge said “there’s nothing form a pre-clinical evidence point of view”.

The reason for this is simple and affects other potential treatments for long Covid; put simply “there’s no pre-clinical models of long Covid considering how short a period of time Covid, and therefore long Covid, has been on the scene”, added Dr Erridge.

The reason why there’s no evidence to support medicinal cannabis as a treatment for long Covid is the same reason why there’s little evidence to support the use of other medications; long Covid hasn’t been around for long enough.

However, there is hope.

Dr Erridge added: “What we do know are there are a lot of similarities between other inflammatory viral conditions and long covid and we know that cannabidiol has an anti-inflammatory effect in the way that it affects certain molecules within your inflammatory system which would stimulate white blood cells and other actors in the immune system to fire.

“What cannabidiol has consistently shown is that it is able to dampen those down and that is some of the reasons why it is thought to be really beneficial in inflammatory disorders.”

As a result, there is hope medicinal cannabis could be used to help alleviate the symptoms of long Covid if not cure the inherent condition.

Long Covid isn’t the first condition Dr Erridge has discussed medicinal cannabis playing a role in treating.

In April he was asked about the potential of medicinal cannabis to treat cancer.

Dr Erridge said: “With respect to treating cancer there is obviously some really promising pre-clinical evidence in terms of looking at the response to cancer cells in a petri dish and response in animal models in terms of their response to cancer, but there haven’t been any significant [human] trials that have reported results in cancer.”

At a laboratory level cannabis has been shown to effectively fight and defeat cancer cells.

While positive, until human trials are undertaken the true impact is unclear.

Although for the most part they are few and far between, in some areas cannabis is showing promise.

A phase two trial undertaken by the University of Birmingham is looking into the impact of medicinal cannabis on shrinking aggressive brain tumours.

The trial has been funded by The Brain Tumour Charity and is looking at the impact of Sativex on the efficacy of chemotherapy.

The study has received support Cancer Research UK’s Professor Pam Kearns: “Cannabinoids have well-described effects in the brain and there has been a lot of interest in their use across different cancers for a long time now.

“Glioblastoma brain tumours have been shown to have receptors to cannabinoids on their cell surfaces, and laboratory studies on glioblastoma cells have shown these drugs may slow tumour growth.”

As the government begins its war on cancer, the hope of campaigners is cannabis could form one of the war’s main artillery pieces in the UK’s cancer front.

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