Feds Warn CBD Marketers About False Medical Claims

By Pat Anson, PNN Editor.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission are tapping the brakes on the fast growing market for cannabidiol (CBD), warning companies not to make false claims that CBD products can be used to treat fibromyalgia, migraine, arthritis and other chronic illnesses.

The agencies sent warning letters to three companies — Nutra Pure, PotNetwork Holdings, and Advanced Spine and Pain — for making false and unsubstantiated health claims about a variety of CBD oils, extracts and edibles.

The FDA and FTC sent the warning letters on March 28 and gave the companies 15 days to respond.

Nutra Pure’s website, according to regulators, claimed that “CBD has demonstrated the ability to block spinal, peripheral and gastrointestinal mechanisms responsible for the pain associated with migraines, fibromyalgia, IBS and other related disorders.”

Claims were also made that CBD is “an effective and safe treatment alternative” for inflammatory conditions such as lupus, Celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Nutra Pure, which makes a line of hemp oil, has a small disclaimer on its website stating that “these products are not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease.”

NUTRA PURE IMAGE

NUTRA PURE IMAGE

PotNetwork has a similar disclaimer on its website, where it sells everything from CBD infused gummy bears and energy drinks to moisturizers and pet care products. According to the FDA, the company falsely claimed that CBD “blocked the progression of arthritis” and “has also shown the ability to kill cancer cells directly.”  

In addition to marketing CBD products, Advanced Spine and Pain also offers stem cell therapy, steroid injections, trigger point injections and ketamine infusions at its “Relievus” clinics in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

‘Open Questions’ About CBD Safety

The federal crackdown on CBD marketing comes at a time when CBD products are starting to appear in mainstream stores. CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens started selling cannabis-based lotions, tinctures, edibles and lozenges in stores last month. The CBD products are being sold over-the-counter and without a prescription.  

The FDA and FTC announced no actions against CVS, Walgreens or other retailers selling CBD products, but they sent a clear message that the marketing of CBD will be closely watched.

“We treat products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds as we do any other FDA-regulated products. Among other things, the FDA requires a cannabis product (hemp-derived or otherwise) that’s marketed with a claim of therapeutic benefit to be approved by the FDA for its intended use before it may be introduced into interstate commerce,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a statement. “Additionally, it is unlawful to introduce food containing added CBD, or the psychoactive compound THC, into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as dietary supplements.”

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp – a less potent strain of marijuana – from the Controlled Substances Act. That made hemp products legal to sell, but left the FDA in charge of regulating dietary supplements containing CBD. The agency is still trying to figure out how to regulate a product for which there is growing consumer demand, but little scientific evidence to support its use.

“While the availability of CBD products in particular has increased dramatically in recent years, open questions remain regarding the safety considerations raised by their widespread use,” Gottlieb said. “There are also unresolved questions regarding the cumulative exposure to CBD if people access it across a broad range of consumer products, as well as questions regarding the intended functionality of CBD in such products.”

Gottlieb has announced plans to hold a public hearing on May 31 to review the safety and effectiveness of CBD products. The FDA is also forming an internal working group within the agency to explore what regulatory changes would be needed for CBD products to be marketed legally.  

FDA Warns Promoters of Herbal Addiction Treatments

By Pat Anson, Editor

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is following through on its threat to crackdown on companies selling kratom and other herbal supplements as treatments for opioid addiction and withdrawal.

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have sent joint warning letters to the distributors of 15 herbal supplements for illegally marketing unapproved products.

“The FDA is increasingly concerned with the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like opioid addiction and withdrawal,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “People who are addicted to opioids should have access to safe and effective treatments and not be victimized by unscrupulous vendors who are trying to capitalize on the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of consumers and selling products with baseless claims.”

The companies used websites or social media to make claims about their products' ability to cure, treat or prevent opioid withdrawal and addiction.

TaperAid, for example, claims its “17 all-natural organic herbs” can relieve symptoms of withdrawal and even reduce tolerance to opioid painkillers.

“Use of TaperAid may increase sensitivity to opioids. You may need to lower your usual intake of opioids to account for reduced tolerance,” the company claimed. “People using short acting opioids (which includes many pain management medications and heroin) will notice a significant lowering of tolerance to their opiate of choice.”

TaperAid’s website and Facebook account have been taken down, although a TaperAid review can still be found on YouTube.

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“Opioid addiction is a serious health epidemic that affects millions of Americans,” said acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen. “Individuals and their loved ones who struggle with this disease need real help, not unproven treatments.”

In addition to the warning letters, the FTC released a “fact sheet” warning consumers about companies that promise miracle cures or fast results.

“Dietary supplements – such as herbal blends, vitamins, and minerals – have not been scientifically proven to ease withdrawal or to treat opioid dependence,” the FTC warned. “Products like Kratom, which some claim can help, are actually not proven treatments, and can be addictive and dangerous to your health.”

The FDA issued a public health advisory about kratom last November, saying there was “no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder.”

Kratom comes from the leaves of a tree that grows in southeast Asia, where it has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties.  Millions of Americans have discovered kratom in recent years, and use it to treat addiction, chronic pain, anxiety and depression. The herb is not approved by the FDA for any medical condition. 

In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration attempted to list kratom’s two active ingredients as Schedule I controlled substances, which would have made it a felony to possess or sell kratom. The DEA suspended its plan after a public outcry, saying it would wait for a scheduling recommendation and medical evaluation of kratom from the FDA. Over a year later, that report has still not been released.