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David Aronoff, MD, discusses an early study on CBD and on how to address interested patients Early Studies Suggest CBD May Help Prevent COVID-19 Medical formulations of the compound cannabidiol — known as CBD — have shown promise as a way to prevent COVID-19. Medical formulations of

So, Your Patient Just Asked About CBD for COVID-19?

— David Aronoff, MD, discusses an early study on CBD and on how to address interested patients

by Emily Hutto, Associate Video Producer January 28, 2022

In this video, David Aronoff, MD, chair of the department of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, discusses a recent study testing cannabidiol (CBD) against COVID-19 in the lab and in mice, and how to guide patients seeking treatment for COVID-19.

The following is a transcript of his remarks:

If a patient were to come to me and ask about the use of CBD oil to prevent COVID-19 or reduce the severity of it, I would say that right now, that approach is not ready for prime time. There are other, better ways that we know are safe and very effective to prevent COVID-19 and reduce the severity if someone gets ill. So wear your mask, socially distance, get vaccinated, and if you get symptomatically ill with COVID, let a healthcare professional know, because you may be eligible for things like monoclonal antibodies or new medications like Paxlovid [nirmatrelvir/ritonavir] or repurposed medicines like fluvoxamine [Luvox]. But it’s really important to engage with a licensed healthcare professional if you’re sick with COVID-19.

These investigators thought that there may be some anti-inflammatory effects of CBD, and that might be useful to suppress some of the inflammation that can occur in patients who have COVID-19. But the investigators found a surprising result, which is that CBD and one of its active metabolites didn’t really have too much of an effect on the inflammatory response of the epithelial cells they were studying. But rather, and curiously, the CBD seemed to block the replication of the SARS CoV-2 virus in the respiratory epithelial cells.

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This really led the investigators to dig deeper into trying to understand whether the effect they were seeing was specific to CBD or could be found in other compounds that may be also identified in marijuana and to try to drill down on mechanisms through which CBD could be limiting SARS CoV-2 replications in epithelial cells.

And finally, based on what they found in vitro, they wanted to know if there were any correlates of this compound being used in humans that may show some promise for reducing the risk of COVID-19 and even went as far as doing an interventional study in mice to look at the impact of CBD on reducing the severity of SARS COVID-2 infection in a mouse model.

While this study is really interesting and promising, we don’t yet have data in humans that show that we can use CBD oil in therapeutic ways to prevent COVID-19 or reduce the severity of COVID-19. And really what we need is an actual randomized placebo-controlled, double-blind study, which is now regularly being done to look at therapeutic and preventive strategies for COVID-19. Right now, the best we can say about CBD oil is that it’s a promising idea. But until we have properly controlled studies, we don’t actually know how effective or not this is in humans.

Even the human component of the study that was just published, although it was retrospective, which has its limitations, it was looking at essentially medical-grade CBD oil used in the treatment of people who have severe seizure disorders. So we really don’t know how commercially-available, easy-to-get CBD preparations might perform in protecting people from COVID-19.

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Emily Hutto is an Associate Video Producer & Editor for MedPage Today. She is based in Manhattan.

Early Studies Suggest CBD May Help Prevent COVID-19

Medical formulations of the compound cannabidiol — known as CBD — have shown promise as a way to prevent COVID-19.

Medical formulations of the compound cannabidiol — known as CBD — have shown promise as a way to prevent COVID-19.

What you need to know

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabis compound with some medicinal properties. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive component of cannabis — CBD does not produce a high or euphoria. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one CBD-based medication to treat seizure disorders; other medications are in the development and testing pipeline.

Now some early studies show that CBD could help block infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

What did the researchers do?

In a series of studies supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, researchers tested the effects of CBD and other cannabis compounds on SARS-CoV-2. They looked at interactions between CBD and the virus in human lung cells and in mice. They also analyzed data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative’s health records of volunteers who had been prescribed the CBD-based medication to help prevent seizures.

What did they learn?

In both the laboratory studies and the health records analyses, CBD seemed to have a protective effect against SARS-CoV-2. When the virus was introduced to human lung cells treated with CBD, it could not replicate and take hold as it usually does. Mice that were given therapeutic doses of CBD before being exposed to the virus were much less likely to develop COVID-19 than mice in the control group. And human patients who took the CBD-based medication were less likely to report a COVID-19 diagnosis than others, including people who had the same seizure disorders but had not been prescribed that medication.

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Interestingly, out of more than 100 compounds in cannabis, only CBD showed this protective effect. In fact, when CBD was combined with THC, its ability to protect decreased.

What does this mean?

More research, including clinical trials, is needed, but these studies suggest that CBD might be a useful way of preventing COVID-19 in the future. The researchers caution that CBD is not a replacement for vaccination, masking, and social distancing. If anything, they write, CBD would be used along with these measures to prevent breakthrough infections.

The researchers also emphasize that the CBD used in their studies is different from the nonmedical products consumers might be familiar with. There is no evidence that taking over-the-counter CBD products can prevent or treat COVID-19 infection.

Where can I go to learn more?

NCI provides patient-friendly information about cannabis and its compounds.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has more information about cannabis and CBD.

N3C is a partnership among several NIH Institutes and Centers that aims to use COVID-19 clinical data to answer critical research questions.

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