As the number of people falling ill to COVID-19 increases, the urgency to find treatment options has one medical cannabis retailer looking for Health Canada approval to conduct a clinical trial with cannabis on people suffering from the highly contagious respiratory illness.
“What we know from medical cannabis over the course of the literature and the experience we’ve had in Canada over the years is that there are known anti-inflammatory properties that cannabinoids have — cannabinoids being the active ingredients that come from the cannabis plant,” said Dr. Mohan Cooray, president and CEO of Cannalogue, a physician-led online medical cannabis retailer based in Toronto.
“On top of that, we know from a medical standpoint that these active ingredients have immunomodulatory properties, meaning that they augment the immune system to make it better… and we’ve seen this in diseases such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis that medical cannabis functions as a naturally occurring immunomodulator.”
While most people who have tested positive for coronavirus experience mild flu-like symptoms such as fever and tiredness, the virus could also to trigger respiratory issues — an inflammatory response which could lead to pneumonia.
The majority of COVID-19 deaths occur in patients who are elderly or have existing medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
In Canada, there are over 5,300 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases and 59 deaths.
Currently, there are no health products that have been approved by Health Canada to treat or protect against COVID-19.
Canada is among several countries who are involved in the World Health Organization’s global clinical trial examining the effectiveness of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.
Drugs being tested in the WHO’s Solidarity trial include: malaria drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine; remdesivir, which has been tested on Ebola patients; lopinavir/ritonavir, which has been used to treat HIV infections; and lopinavir/ritonavir combined with interferon-beta, which has been used to treat multiple sclerosis.
For Dr. Cooray, the purpose of a clinical trial involving medical cannabis would look at whether or not cannabis can reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.
A search of Health Canada’s online database of clinical trials shows that there is one ongoing trial for COVID-19 and five that are listed as pending.
The ongoing trial conducted by the Centre de Recherch du Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Que., since April 2019 looked at the use of vitamin C to “lessen organ dysfunction” in adults.
Two of the pending trials by Sunnybrook Research Institute at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Unity Health Toronto looked at the use of the drug lopinavir/ritonavir on adults and children.
The other pending adult trials involved the use of hydroxychloroquine by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, the drug colchicine (used to treat gout) by the Montreal Heart Institute, and the use of gaseous nitric oxide by led Dr. Jeremy Road.