Jamaican Scientists on Verge of Creating Cannabis-Based Hepatitis C Drugs

Dr. Wayne McLaughlin

Research scientists, led by Dr. Henry Lowe, say they have discovered properties in cannabidiol, one of the major bioactive compounds in the cannabis plant, that have the potential to provide affordable treatment as nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals for hepatitis C.

In vitro studies to demonstrate the antiviral activity of cannabidiol against HCV, Lowe and his research team — Jamaican Wayne McLaughlin and Cameroonian Dr. Ngeh Toyang — state in their published study, adding that cannabidiol was shown to have activity against HCV in vitro but not against hepatitis B virus (HBV).

On Friday, Lowe, who is known worldwide for his anti-cancer and ganja research, as well as the production of a range of nutraceuticals using Jamaican plants, told the Jamaica Observer that the discovery is a major development.

“This is a new discovery which has fantastic potential for the future, especially for people in developing countries, because there is a drug which was developed for hepatitis C treatment, but it’s over $85,000 per treatment and very few people in the developing world can afford this,” he said. “So, it is very important that we find less-expensive means of treatment and that is why this discovery and its potential to manage this disease is so important.

“Most of the incidences [of hepatitis C] are in the developing world, so this means this could make a big difference if it’s taken to finality,” Lowe said.

“This journal publication is not current, insofar as the research is concerned because we have to protect intellectual property. We have gone far beyond this in terms of research and development to the point where we’re hoping that by next year, with the data we have, we should be able to go to clinical trials. So, it’s a major, major new development,” he said.

He further stated that a nutraceutical product is currently being developed that should be ready for the market by year’s end. Talks, he added, have started with the South African government on the cannabis research and development, which, he believes, could open the way to the products to the developing world.

In their study, the scientists pointed out that viral hepatitis is caused by a group of viruses divided into five types — A, B, C, D and E — and they are primarily known to attach to the liver.

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