A recent study is providing hope for people with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Dr. Henry Lowe and fellow scientists performed an in vitro study that shows marginal antiviral activity of CBD against HCV. The study combined 10 micrometers of CBD oil with 3 micrometers of HCV and found that CBD stopped the replication of HCV by 86.4%. Surprisingly, this the only in vitro study that has been conducted. Other studies prior to 2016 lacked the ability to perform tests in controlled test tubes and collected data based on second hand historical information from its participants.

There is currently no vaccine for the hepatitis C virus, and HCV is a blood borne virus most prevalent in communities where risk of sharing drug injection equipment is high. The virus can also be transmitted through inadequate sterilization of medical equipment in hospital settings or through sexual contact. HCV causes liver failure, liver cirrhosis and cancer in most cases. According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) between 130-150 million people globally have chronic HCV and approximately 700,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.

For people already infected, the WHO recommends education and counseling, antiviral therapy and regular monitoring for liver disease. This means you can learn about the virus that's already inside of you, attend group therapy and keep an eye on your liver, but not much else. Antiviral medication can treat approximately 90% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.

“This new discovery, which has fantastic potential for the future, is especially crucial 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,” Dr. Lowe told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview. “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.”

The Eastern European and Central Asian regions are home to an estimated one-quarter of all people who inject drugs worldwide. Because these areas are comprised of developing countries, the manufacturing, distribution and administration of CBD treatment would be a major economical problem to patients. In America, CBD oil (for sole treatment of a specific medical condition) can run anywhere between $10 to thousands of dollars. For patients in developing countries who use water bottles for light bulbs, this is definitely not ideal.

Mapping out the process from Dr. Lowe’s study to the actual treatment of patients doesn’t seem very promising. Firstly, it would have to be approved by the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is the board of directors and the supreme decision-making body for the WHO. Comprised of delegates from 192 member states and 62 different countries, its main function is to determine the policies of the Organization. All 192 members would have to be in agreement to allow CBD treatment to be dispersed through various countries.

If members of the WHA were to approve CBD, the next step would be transporting the drugs. The chances of CBD treatment or any other drugs arriving at their destination are few to none, as “leaking” (a term used to describe drugs that are stolen or lost in transit from the manufacturing facility to the hospital) is a recurring problem in third world countries. In Chad, the leakage rate is 99%, meaning only 1% of drugs make their way to the intended hospital.

If the medicine were to actualy arrive at its destination, such as a doctor’s office in Nigeria or Bangladesh, patients would be at risk of not receiving proper care due to insufficient medical staff or unsterile hospital equipment, as public clinics in developing countries tend to operate at very low standards in terms of staff attentiveness and effectiveness. In a blog from the World Bank, it is said that health workers in public clinics in Senegal and Tanzania are present 20-21% of the time and when they are present, they spend a total of 39 and 29 minutes respectively a day counseling patients.

Despite the challenges, we shouldn’t take away from the fact that the first step has been taken: a positive and hopeful in vitro study on the effects of CBD eradicating HCV has been performed and recognized by the media.

This groundbreaking new study will at least open up avenues for further research into the benefits of CBD and will, at best, pave the way in creating easier access to much needed treatment.