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cbd and covid

Van Breemen added that CBDA and CBGA blocked the action of emerging variants of the virus that causes Covid-19, saying that “our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-CoV-2, including variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351, first detected in South Africa.”

Compounds in cannabis can prevent infection by the virus that causes Covid-19, according to research . [+] published this week.

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The spike protein is the same part of the virus target by Covid-19 vaccines and antibody therapies. In addition to the spike protein, SARS-CoV-2 has three more structural proteins as well as 16 nonstructural proteins and several compounds van Breemen characterized as “accessory” proteins, all of which are potential targets for drugs developed to prevent Covid-19.

“Any part of the infection and replication cycle is a potential target for antiviral intervention, and the connection of the spike protein’s receptor binding domain to the human cell surface receptor ACE2 is a critical step in that cycle,” van Breeman said. “That means cell entry inhibitors, like the acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells. They bind to the spike proteins so those proteins can’t bind to the ACE2 enzyme, which is abundant on the outer membrane of endothelial cells in the lungs and other organs.”

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Although further research is needed, van Breemen noted that study shows the cannabinoids could be developed into drugs to prevent or treat Covid-19.

Cbd and covid

Our descriptive review indicates that advertising of unapproved, misbranded, and unsubstantiated remedies for COVID-19 represents a wide range of products across social media platforms. An earlier report raised awareness of these violative promotions, however, their limited analysis was confined to the early phase of the pandemic (Bramstedt 2021).

Only one cannabis-derivative (i.e., CBD) drug product (Epidiolex) and two synthetic cannabis-related drug products (Marinol and Syndros) have been FDA approved for medical use with a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. U.S Food and Drug Administration 2021b. Additionally, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) prohibits cannabis-derived compounds including cannabidiol (CBD) to be an ingredient in, or sold as, a dietary supplement or food product (U.S Food and Drug Admnistration 2021c).

Despite the urgent need for COVID-19 treatments, promotional material by companies must comply with standard regulatory requirements, namely substantiation of claims. As the pandemic persists, the FDA must continue their efforts to monitor, inspect, and enforce violative companies. Cannabidiol-related substances led the spectrum of products with unsubstantiated claims to treat COVID-19 infection. Improving awareness among the public, healthcare providers, and stakeholders highlights the value of drug approval process, while protecting public safety.


Promotional material for products that are intended to prevent or treat an illness must be based on reliable scientific evidence that substantiates any claims. Prescription drug promotion surveillance of marketed products, for example, is conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP), with enforcement of promotional requirements through letters to drug license holders explaining the violation and outlining requited remedial activity (Zagrodney et al. 2021). Common violations include omission of risk information, risk minimization, and overstated efficacy. Violative promotions can also be associated with misbranding products as described in Section 502 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act if its labeling proved false or misleading in any particular (U.S Food and Drug Administration 2021d). Since the declaration of a national emergency in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the FDA has taken such measures against companies that claim to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19 with unapproved and unauthorized products.

Since CBD products were the most frequent subject of violation (15/130; 11.5%), an additional content analysis was conducted in this category. Moreover, violations of non-CBD products were compared (Fig. 1C). Among the violation letters containing CBD products, majority of letters were reported to US-based companies (13; 86.7%) (Table 1). All letters cited UAP (15/15; 100%), 15 (100%) noted MB, and 14 (93.3%) noted UC (Fig. 1C; Table 2). These letters reported CBD-related promotional material on websites (15; 100%), Facebook (8; 53.3%), YouTube (0; 0%), Instagram (4; 26.7%), Twitter (5; 33.3%), LinkedIn (1; 6.7%), and email (0; 0%) (Table 2). Lastly, the unsubstantiated claims of CBD products were described to provide therapeutic benefit to COVID-19, by acting as an anti-viral (5; 33.3%), pro-inflammatory (1; 6.7%), anti-inflammatory (7; 46.7%), an immune-booster (6; 40.0%), immune-suppressor (2; 13.3%), and/or other (2; 13.3%) (Table 2).

Due the understandable allure of unapproved and unauthorized products that claim to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19, the FDA has continued to caution the public about the dangers of the use of fraudulent health products (U.S Food and Drug Administration 2021a). While anticipating the development and approval of safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics, the public had to rely on personal and community-based public health measures to mitigate the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These practices included limiting in-person contacts, universal masking, hand hygiene, and physical distancing, as well as personal protective equipment. It is plausible that in the absence of effective therapies, the public may resort to self-directed trials of various substances that could help to prevent or treat COVID-19. In this report, we perform a descriptive temporal review of violative letters to highlight the products and advertising venues with a focus cannabis and/or their related products.


The pandemic continues to be an opportunity for widespread health literacy, and an inclusion of prominent public voices into the knowledge translation process. For one, FDA warning letters provide an appreciation of the rigorous drug approval process in establishing safety and efficacy. In addition to basic and clinical science, FDA warning letters highlight the need for sound marketing and communications practices in drug promotion. Finally, although repurposed drugs were cited for claims relating to COVID-19, the insistence on proper substantiation of benefit is a public reminder of the deliberate steps involved in establishing therapeutic indication and dose. Amidst a pandemic, false, misleading, and unsubstantiated drug claims related to COVID-19 continue to be a public health and safety threat.

Given the devastation of illness from COVID-19 and the uncertainties surrounding its pathogenesis and presentations, it is understandable that the public, clinicians, and other stakeholders may be more open to atypical modalities for prevention and treatment, even forgoing usual scientific rigor. Nevertheless, proper public health practices must overtake misguided enthusiasm. New history holds several examples of optimistic yet ineffective and harmful therapies for devastating diseases (Snowden 2019). Surrounding oneself with red (“red treatment”) for smallpox (Weir 2002), for instance, or smoking tobacco for the plague (Mayo 2015), drinking a potion of sapphire and gold for the “Tudor sweats,” and snake oils for rheumatism (Kinsella et al. 2021) have all been proposed.