In a landmark trial, cannabis is used to treat Long Covid symptoms

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Drug Science is running the trial. If initial results are positive, it will be scaled-up to a large UK clinical study. Participating GPs will enroll around 30 patients with persistent symptoms.

An important trial to test cannabis’ use in treating Long Covid is currently being conducted.

Participating GPs will enroll around 30 patients with long-term symptoms like fatigue, muscle pain, anxiety, and sleeplessness.

The NHS Research Ethics Committee and Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory agency MHRA granted the first such license.

It is currently being managed by Drug Science, a charity founded by Prof David Nutt, a former Government drug tsar.

If the initial results prove positive, it will be expanded to a larger UK clinical trial.

Participants will receive daily cannabis oil, which has been shown in some cases to help with post-viral fatigue.

David Badcock is the chief executive officer of Drug Science. “We need to address Long Covid and quickly.

“Right now physicians have very little that they can offer to patients.

“Research will lead us to the most effective options and this includes looking at medicines like cannabis which, while legal[ly prescribed] in the UK since 2019, are still widely misunderstood and rarely prescribed.”

Globally, scientists are still unsure why Long Covid symptoms like breathlessness, brain fog and exhaustion persist for several months in some patients.

The Office for National Statistics estimates that 1.3 Brits are suffering from Long Covid, even before the Omicron spike caused record infections rates this winter.

The UK has legalized cannabis, but doctors rarely prescribe it. This is due to a lack of solid clinical trials that have looked at its potential benefits and risks.

Many patient groups are calling for greater research investment in order to allow clinical trials.

Participants will receive daily doses of Medicabilis oil-form cannabis medicine, developed by BOD Australia.

It contains 5% Cannabidiol, known as CBD, and 0.2% Tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC.

The trial will last six months starting in February 2022.

Participants will complete daily self-reporting using smartphones and fitness apps.

The participants will keep track of their heart rate and blood pressures each day. All data will be anonymised and analysed by researchers to determine whether medicinal cannabis could be considered as a Long Covid treatment.

Principal trial investigator, Dr Elizabeth Iveson (Neurorehabilitation Consultant) based at STEPS Rehabilitation Unit, Sheffield said: “I’m seeing more patients significantly affected by the prolonged after effects of Long Covid.

“Many are young, previously fit and healthy individuals who now struggle daily with mobility, impacted by fatigue, anxiety and a limited tolerance to exercise.

“Access to high quality holistic care and rehabilitation is needed but current NHS resources are very stretched, and often limited to the more severely affected patients.

“This leaves a huge number of patients in the UK experiencing debilitating symptoms and self-managing, with very little therapeutic options available to them or their GPs,

“From my experience of prescribing cannabis to patients with diseases affecting multiple bodily systems and presenting with many different symptoms, there is potential that medical cannabis could also be effective as part of the management of patients with Long Covid.

“Access to these medicines for patients is still limited and expensive. There is an urgent need for more clinical trials for both medical cannabis and Long Covid and so I’m excited to be leading this MHRA approved study.”

Kyle Esplin, 40 years old, has been prescribed medical cannabis by his doctor since late 2019, just after the legalization of it following high-profile campiagning from families of child epilepsy patients.

Seven years ago, he was diagnosed with a postviral condition. He contracted what doctors believed to be an enterovirus. It can have characteristics similar to coronavirus.

He explained: “I was the last person you would expect this to happen to. I was very high energy, and living a very busy and full life.

“But six months after my initial infection, I was a different person. I became constantly exhausted, all of my muscles and joints were in pain.

“I couldn’t wash or cook for myself. My heart rate was erratic, I developed new allergies. If I tried to get fit, or ‘better’, I would experience crashes that would put me in bed for weeks on end.

“These crashes, known medically as post-exertional malaise, are common in many forms of post-viral fatigue and were perhaps the worst part of all.

“I went from being a fit and healthy 30 year old to someone who was unable to work, and who could do little more than sit at home in silence.

“Any attempt to change my situation or fight back against it caused even bigger relapses, it was dreadful.

“I was prescribed painkillers, offered antidepressants, and I tried alternative therapies and holistic medicines in an attempt to get well.

“Nothing made a difference until I began using cannabis. Medical cannabis has turned down the volume on my symptoms to the point where some seem to have disappeared altogether.

“It has allowed my system to operate far more normally. It has toned down my body’s inflammatory response and helped to repair what was ultimately a crashed and broken network. I have been able to rebuild my health by using it, regaining a high level of functionality and physical fitness.

“Cannabis was the only medicine that has worked for me. It is logical to assume that it would have a similar benefit for other patients experiencing types of post-viral fatigue, including Long Covid.

“My experience shows that these medicines can have a transformative impact on people’s health, wellbeing and overall quality of life.”