Israeli Research Shows Cannabis Could Cure HIV/AIDS
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 11/23/2016 in Medical Marijuana Studies
There is growing scientific evidence that medical cannabis may stop the spread of HIV. For patients afflicted with HIV/AIDS, medical marijuana has been increasingly used to curtail devastating symptoms of chronic pain and cachexia, the wasting away defined by dramatic weight and muscle mass loss, but there is now evidence of it halting the disease.
The devastating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) kills protector white blood T-cells, resulting in immune system shutdown and rampant opportunistic infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis and cancers. As HIV worsens, it leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), characterized by chronic low T-cell count and additional infections.
Currently, HIV/AIDS is treated by high active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), a pharmaceutical cocktail designed to slow the disease’s progression. Additional medications are often needed to ward off opportunistic infections, while even more meds are prescribed to fight AIDS-related symptoms and the side effects of the other drugs.
The legal synthetic pill form of THC called Marinol is often prescribed, but the drug has milder THC than the natural plant, which contains hundreds of other therapeutic compounds. Both the plant and Marinol have unpleasant side effects as well, including the “high” that lasts for hours and extreme drowsiness.
But thanks to Israeli scientists, a strain of marijuana has been developed without these side effects. It shows promise for not only HIV/AIDS, but for a whole host of other ailments. A few years ago, the Israeli company Tikun Olam developed a strain called Avidekel that alleviates pain, nausea and other symptoms, but without the damaging side effects. Head of Tikun Olam development, Zack Klein says “sometimes the high is not what you need–it is an unwanted side effect. For some of the people, it’s not even pleasant.”
The main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but Avidekel is free of THC. Instead, it has a high cannabidiol (CBD) concentration. CBD has substantial anti-inflammatory benefits and doesn’t bind to the brain receptors like THC does, therefore it doesn’t create the “high” effect.
The Israeli government permitted Avidekel for medicinal use in 2012. Marijuana is still illegal in Israel, but the country has permitted medical use for diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, and Crohn’s since 1993. Tikun Olam is Israel’s largest supplier of medical cannabis and the primary proponent for its medical use.
There are four primary studies in this body of evidence regarding effectiveness for HIV:
The first study involved patients who smoked medical cannabis to alleviate neuropathic pain. The researchers conducted a fully randomized, double-blind, placebo crossover trial to study HIV-associated distal sensory predominant polyneuropathy (DSPN). Subjects continued their prestudy analgesic regimens, but also received either placebo or active cannabis four times daily. The cannabis was administered for five consecutive days, followed by a two week waiting period, then followed again by five days of treatment. The primary outcome was a marked change in pain intensity, with secondary benefits of mood elevation and an increase in the ability to perform daily functions. Best of all, patients experienced very mild side effects.
The second study involved the ability of cannabinoids to inhibit certain proteins associated with HIV. Immune cells called macrophages become infected with the HIV-1 virus and once infected, the cells secrete toxic factors like the protein trans-activating protein (Tat). Cannabinoids found in Avidekel significantly halted the migration of macrophages to the Tat protein, showing the potential for Avidekel to be a therapeutic target to stop the inflammatory response associated with the HIV.
The third study was an animal trial designed to determine whether Avidekel could slow or stop the progression of the primate equivalent of HIV called simian immunodeficiency virus. Avidekel was given twice a day for 28 days, then the rhesus macaques were inoculated with simian immunodeficiency virus. Researchers then studied the typical immune and metabolic indicators of the disease during the initial 6 month period in which the primates are asymptomatic. The results showed that Avidekel may actually slow or stop the progression of SIV. Furthermore, the animals maintained body mass and experienced greatly reduced inflammation.
The fourth study also looked at tolerance to Avidekel in rhesus macaques infected with SIV. Four groups of male rhesus macaques were studied before and after SIV innoculation. As in the third study, a 28-day dose of Avidekel was administered. Nearly 1 year later, the macaques showed reduced progression of the disease (as measured by disease markers), as well as a reduction in opportunistic infections and inflammation, all without the disruptive side effects of normal THC.
There is much more promising research in progress and on the horizon. HIV/AIDS patients should always consult a physician before using cannabis to alleviate your symptoms. If you don’t know what treatments are available to you in your home state, contact us. And if you are interested in participating in US studies, there are several options. You can register for the first nationwide medical marijuana study, to participate in a study that will help to prove the medicine of marijuana.