A medical cannabis throat lozenge may help prevent deaths from the swine flu according to Robert Melamede, owner of Cannabis Science, a pharmaceutical cannabis company. If Melamede is correct the large number of deaths among young adults from a 1918 swine flu outbreak could have been prevented with a cannabis throat lozenge. With FDA approval the lozenge could be used to prevent deaths from organ failure that can result from particularly virulent strains of the flu.
Symptoms commonly associated with the flu are really due to immune responses rather than the flu virus itself. The immune response can be so intense that it leads to the death of healthy cells and potentially death of the individual.
When the immune system launches an attack on the virus it causes an inflammatory response that produces flu symptoms such as runny nose, sore throat, and body aches. The body uses its’ own endocannabinoids to moderate the immune response, but it is sometimes unable to fully control the inflammatory process. The cannabinoids present in marijuana also have an inhibitory effect on the immune system giving the natural endocannabinoid mechanism a boost. The lozenges can also potentially reduce symptoms such as body aches and sore throat prior to stopping them at the immune level, which takes more time.
In 2009, the FDA said it was going to perform clinical trials of the medical cannabis lozenge for influenza and warned it could take months to complete. Now, in 2014, little more is heard of it and no lozenge has been granted FDA approval. The FDA proposed best method to prevent death from the flu continues to be getting an annual flu shot.
Flu shots need to be administered every year. If anyone contracts the strain they were vaccinated against more than a year prior their illness will be more severe. Flu shots are only effective for specific strains whereas the cannabis lozenge works for all of them and still allows a person to combat the flu on his or her own thereby acquiring lifelong immunity.
Prior to the FDA trials most of the testing was done by curious individuals including Robert Melamede. Steve Kubby, the pioneer of the cannabis lozenge also tested it when he believes he contracted the H1N1 swine flu. He said “within half an hour of taking it, my runny nose, aching muscles, and throat congestion were all significantly relieved.”
When flu sufferers use the medical cannabis lozenge they do not get the high that comes from the THC in the plant making it potentially safe for children and adults.
As people are becoming increasingly critical of the flu vaccine having an alternative geared at preventing lethal incidences of the flu is becoming increasingly important. Many will likely still opt for the vaccine as it can prevent the flu altogether, but having a second option could go further to prevent deaths.
If the lozenge proves to be beneficial in further clinical studies and gets the go ahead from the FDA, a difficult feat for marijuana, it stands to become a popular option for a significant population. Flu maps for states with legal medical marijuana will prove interesting in coming years if medical cannabis is eventually approved for influenza.
By Lara Stielow