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There is a growing body of evidence regarding the use of natural and synthetic cannabinoids for the treatment of different diseases. Of these drugs, lenabasum has been recently introduced for its promising therapeutic potentials.
What Are the Current Treatments Available?
Chronic inflammatory diseases, which are characterized by prolonged inflammation, represent a significant burden to the patients. Physicians usually prescribe specific medications that inhibit inflammation in various ways. However, most of these drugs are directed against the symptoms of rapid and short onset inflammation, such as steroids (prednisone) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Although these medications are effective against some major complaints, they are not considered as complete curative therapies. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop novel drugs with effective abilities to “cure” the chronic inflammatory conditions.
The recent introduction of medical cannabinoids as well as the in-depth knowledge about their mechanisms enabled researchers to assess the effects of different natural and synthetic cannabinoids. Lenabasum is a new synthetic cannabinoid that resembles the chemical structure of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a well-known plant-derived cannabinoid. Unlike THC, lenabasum has no effects on mental functions, including mood changes and cognitive functions. Lenabasum is given orally and is currently being tested as a treatment for several diseases.
What Does Lenabasum Do?
In general, cannabinoids act in the body through binding to specific receptors in the body, CB1 and CB2, found in the endocannabinoid system. CB2 receptors are the main targets of lenabasum and they are found in the immune system’s cells. These cells are able to enact inflammation. As such, lenabasum activates the process to resolve inflammation and stop excess fibrous tissue formation (important for chronic diseases) in different organs in the body. In addition, the ongoing trials have shown that lenabasum is thought to reduce the activity of some chemicals involved in inflammation.
Overall, several clinical trials are currently designed to evaluate the efficacy of lenabasum for the treatment of major chronic inflammatory diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus, cystic fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, and dermatomyositis. However, this drug is still not approved by the FDA.
How Does Lenabasum Compare to Previous Treatments?
Recent reports demonstrated the superiority of lenabasum over prednisone against acute inflammation, all while not reducing the immune systems of patients. Nonetheless, the use of lenabasum was associated with an increase in blood flow to the site of inflammation though there was no pain or hotness. This effect on blood flow was not shown when prednisone was used.
When compared to THC, lenabasum had favorable impact on the division of tumor cells in the spinal cord of mice.
On observation of side effects, unlike most common anti-inflammatory medications, high doses of lenabasum were not associated with stomach ulcers. This is of particular importance since most of the patients with chronic diseases suffer from this kind of complication. Given its similarity to THC, it is important to study the adverse effects related to drug dependence. The experimental studies revealed that rats were less likely to develop drug dependence when given lenabasum.