A synthetic cannabinoid drug known as ARDS-003 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start Phase 1 clinical trials. The substance is injectable and crafted to aid those with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a serious condition prevalent with COVID-19.
ARDS is known to cause shortness of breath, rapid breathing, low blood pressure, and fatigue. Cytokines are proteins that cause inflammation. While inflammation is considered a healthy immune system response, too much of it can have fatal consequences (called cytokine release syndrome), especially in the setting of COVID-19 infection.
Cannabinoids have found a spotlight in treating ARDS, as research shows they can be natural anti-inflammatories–most notably, cannabidiol (CBD). 
The synthetic cannabinoid ARDS-003 was derived by researchers at Tetra Bio-Pharma. While this compound isn’t a natural molecule extracted from the cannabis plant, it’s engineered to act similarly to phytocannabinoids.
ARDS-003 interacts with the endocannabinoid system by binding to the cannabinoid receptor 2. This receptor plays an important role in regulating the immune system.
Guy Chamberland, MSc PhD, CEO and chief of regulatory officer at Tetra Bio-Pharma told Forbes, “We have extensive preclinical evidence that the active pharmaceutical ingredient in ARDS-003 has a profound effect in inhibiting the factors that lead to excessive immune system activation.”
While this isn’t going to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, it may just help those who are at risk from the novel coronavirus. Scientists have observed that those who struggle most with this virus have an inflamed respiratory system that can drown the lungs with excess fluid.
As ARDS-003 enters into Phase 1 of clinical trials, researchers will observe how it can help individuals with COVID-19. Whether or not the protective effects are long-lasting and are successful for people of all ages, ethnicities, and medical conditions remain to be seen.
Remember, there is no definitive evidence to date to show that using cannabinoids including CBD can prevent or treat COVID-19. Greater research is needed in this important area.
- Khodadadi H, et al. Cannabidiol modulates cytokine storm in acute respiratory distress syndrome induced by simulated viral infection using synthetic RNA. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2020;5(3):197-201.
Image Credit: Michal Jarmoluk