The US Food and Drug Administration has approved phase one clinical trials for a synthetic cannabinoid drug designed to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening lung condition which may occur in severe cases of the novel coronavirus, Forbes reported.
ARDS can be triggered by over-creation of cytokines, proteins which tell the body to produce more inflammation, Forbes said.
The drug going to clinical trials, ARDS-003, would “dampen the cytokine release” and prevent development of ARDS, Tetra Bio-Pharma company CEO and chief regulatory officer Guy Chamberland, MD, said in a news release.
Consequences of ARDS include scarring of the lungs and organ injury caused by the decrease in blood to the tissue, the release said.
“The FDA repeatedly stated that they want clinical trials for COVID-19 to begin as soon as possible, as long as they meet regulatory requirements,” the news release said. “The medical community is in urgent need of drugs that can reduce the strength and duration of the severe inflammation. It is anticipated that this type of new drug would favorably impact health care and possibly reduce the negative health outcomes post infection.”
ARDS-003 works by binding to CB2 receptors, one of two main receptors in the endocannabinoid system which modulate inflammation and cytokine activity, Forbes said. CB2 receptors don’t bring on a psychoactive high.
Phase one clinical trials would begin enrolling participants in December to determine if the drug is safe, Chamberland said, according to Forbes.
If phase one is successful, phase two would test the drug on a larger group in the second quarter of 2021 to assess safety and tolerability for people who have COVID-19.
If phase two is successful, the company may seek emergency authorization through the FDA, Chamberland said. Phase three would start at the end of 2021.
Tetra Bio-Pharma says it has already contracted with Dalton Pharma Services to manufacture the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), HU-308, and the finished drug product ARDS-003.
This article first appeared on Medscape.com.