Dr. Robert J. Melamede Ph.D. Chairman of the Biology Department of the University of Colorado believes that medical marijuana, which has been garnering a great deal of attention lately in helping patients deal with chronic pain, could be used to curb death risk from the swine flu.
The approach of Melamede relies on the principle that cannabinoids, the chemicals in marijuana, have a dampening effect on the immune system. It was said that doctors could take advantage of this effect for curbing the risk of death from the overdrive of immune system that resulted in many of the deaths of young adults during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
However, the approach is not appreciated by every one from the medical fraternity. Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, “I don’t think many parents would want their kids ‘on drugs’ for a mild, flu-like illness.” Horovitz added “and it’s sure to raise hackles with the anti-drug people.”
Cannabis Science, an emerging pharmaceutical cannabis company of which Melamede is president and CEO, is currently working on an edible form of medical marijuana. The company officials believe that this form of medical marijuana will be helpful in treatment of many infectious diseases such as swine flu. The company announced its intention to apply to the fast track approval process of U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the hope of making its anti-flu lozenge available for a possible second wave of swine flu.
Melamede said he has already tried the marijuana approach for treating flu on himself. In February 2009, he contracted flu (possibly the H1N1 swine flu virus) and used medicinal marijuana to help his body fight it off.
It is worth noting that symptoms of flu — runny nose, sore throat and achiness — happen when the immune system launches a massive attack on the virus that results in excessive inflammation. However, the inflammation could start to kill body’s own cells and such a process may lead to organ failure and death in acute cases. Endocannabinoids, which are natural chemicals that suppress the immune system, are released by the body when inflammation goes off the control. However, endocannabinoids may not always keep up and this could lead to organ failure. “They die not from the virus itself but from their own immune response,” Melamede said.
Cannabis Science suggested that marijuana plant containing natural, plant-based cannabinoids, called phytocannabinoids, could be very useful in taking down the inflammation and curbing immune system.
“Contemporary antiviral medical technology is currently inadequate to meet the world’s immediate challenges,” Melamede said in a press release. “We believe that cannabis extract-based medicines can reduce influenza deaths.”
Cannabis Science, Inc.