The following information is presented for educational purposes only.
Medical Marijuana Inc. provides this information to provide an understanding
of the potential applications of cannabidiol. Links to third party websites
do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations by Medical Marijuana
Inc. and none should be inferred.
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that makes the liver swell and affects
2.7 million people in the United States. Studies have shown marijuana shows
potential as a anti-inflammatory treatment and helps patients manage
symptoms associated with the virus.
Overview of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a viral disease caused by the hepatitis virus that leads to
inflammation of the liver. The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood borne
virus that is most commonly transmitted through unsafe injection practices,
but can also be transmitted through unprotected sex with an infection
HCV can cause both acute and chronic infections. The acute HCV virus is
typically asymptomatic and only in rare cases is it life threatening.
Fifteen to 45% of those with an acute HCV infection will clear themselves of
the virus within 6 months and without any treatment. The remaining 55 to 85%
of people will have their virus develop into chronic HCV infection, and 15
to 30% of those individuals will develop cirrhosis within 20 years. Chronic
HCV can also develop into liver cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, because acute HCV infection is
usually asymptomatic, few people are diagnosed during the acute phase.
However, some infected individuals may experience fever, fatigue, decreased
appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, gray-colored feces,
joint pain and jaundice. Those who continue to be asymptomatic will either
unknowingly cure themselves of the virus or have it develop into chronic HCV.
Once a person is diagnosed with HCV, the treatment goal is to cure with
direct antiviral agents.
Findings: Effects of Cannabis on Hepatitis C
Research suggests that cannabis has the potential of offering therapeutic
benefits to patients with HCV and other liver diseases (Mallat, et al.,
2011). The two major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) bind with or influence the cannabinoid receptors
(CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid system within the body. CB2 receptor
activation has demonstrated anti-inflammatory and beneficial effects on
alcoholic fatty liver, hepatic inflammation, liver injury, regeneration and
fibrosis. A research review determined that the cannabinoids found within
cannabis look to tame aspects of chronic liver disease (Zamora-Valdes, et
al., 2005). One study found that cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory properties
effectively reduce inflammation of a damaged liver and researchers therefore
suggested that cannabis could be developed as a potential drug for hepatitis
(Lavon, et al., 2003).
Previous studies had actually implicated cannabis in the progression of
cirrhosis, fibrosis, and other liver diseases (Fischer, et al., 2006).
However, more recent research has found no link to marijuana smoking and the
progression of liver disease (Brunet, et al., 2013). In addition,
researchers have expressed that the potential treatment benefits of cannabis
on hepatitis C outweigh the risks earlier studies had suggested (Fischer, et
Cannabis has also been reported as helping patients with hepatitis C manage
the nausea and other symptoms associated with the antiviral treatment (Schnelle,
Grotenhermen, Reif & Gorter, 1999). In what is likely due to this symptom
relief offered by cannabis, use of cannabis was found to significantly
affect whether patients with hepatitis C were able to stick with their
treatment prescription (Sylvestre, Clements & Malibu, 2006).
States That Have Approved Medical Marijuana for Hepatitis C
Currently, 12 states have approved medical marijuana specifically for the
treatment of hepatitis C. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New
Dakota, Ohio, Rhode
Island and Washington.
A number of other states will consider allowing medical marijuana to be used
for the treatment of hepatitis C with recommendation by a physician. These
states include: California (any
debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been recommended
by a physician), Connecticut (other
medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer
Protection), Nevada (other
conditions subject to approval), and Oregon (other
conditions subject to approval), (other conditions subject to approval).
D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a
DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.
Recent Studies on Cannabis’ Effect on Hepatitis C
Use of cannabis significantly affected whether HCV patients adhered to
their virus treatment regimen.
Cannabis use improves retention and virological outcomes in patients
treated for hepatitis C.
Cannabinoids significantly reduced liver injury in mice and inhibited
several pro-inflammatory processes.
A novel synthetic cannabinoid derivative inhibits inflammatory liver
damage via negative cytokine regulation.
Brunet, L., Moodie, E.E., Rollet, K., Cooper, C., Walmsley, S., Potter, M.,
Klein, M.B. (2013, September). Marijuana Smoking Does Not Accelerate
Progression of Liver Disease in HIV-Hepatitis C Coinfection: A Longitudinal
Cohort Analysis. Clinical
Fisher, B., Reimer, J., Firestone, M., Kalousek, K., Rehm, J., and Heathcote,
J. (2006, October). Treatment for hepatitis C virus and cannabis use in
illicit drug user patients: implications and questions. European
Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology,
Hepatitis C. (2015, July). World
Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en/.
Lavon, I., Sheinin, T., Meilin, S., Biton, E., Weksler, A., Efroni, G.,
Bar-Joseph, A., Fink, G., and Avraham, A. (2003, December). A novel
synthetic cannabinoid derivative inhibits inflammatory liver damage via
negative cytokine regulation. Molecular
Mallat, A., Teixeira-Clerc, F., Deveaux, V., Manin, S., and Lotersztajn, S.
(2011, August). The endocannabinoid system as a key mediator during liver
diseases: new insights and therapeutic openings. British
Journal of Pharmacology,
Schnelle, M., Grotenhermen, F., Reif, M., and Gorter, R.W. (1999, October).
Results of a standardized survey on the medical use of cannabis products in
the German-speaking area. Forschende
Sylvestre, D.L., Clements, B.J., and Malibu, Y. (2006, October). Cannabis
use improves retention and virological outcomes in patients treated for
hepatitis C. European
Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology,
Viral Hepatitis – Hepatitis C Information. (2015, May 31). Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/hcvfaq.htm.
Zamora-Valdes, D., Ponciano-Rodriguez, G., Chavez-Tapia, N.C.,
Mendez-Sanchez, N. (2005). The endocannabinoid system in chronic liver
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