On July 23, 2019, the FDA issued a Warning Letter to Curaleaf, Inc. of Wakefield, Massachusetts, for illegally selling unapproved products containing cannabidiol (CBD) online with unsubstantiated claims that the products treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety, among other conditions or diseases.
“As we examine potential regulatory pathways for the lawful marketing of products containing cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds like CBD, protecting and promoting public health remains our top priority. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims — such as claims that CBD products can treat serious diseases and conditions — can put patients and consumers at risk by leading them to put off important medical care. Additionally, there are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, effectiveness and quality of unapproved products containing CBD,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. “Today’s action demonstrates that the agency stands firm in its commitment to continue monitoring the marketplace and protecting the public health by taking action as needed against companies that deceive consumers and put them at risk by illegally selling products marketed for therapeutic uses for which they are not approved, such as those claiming to treat cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. Consumers should beware of purchasing or using any such products.”
As described in the warning letter issued to Curaleaf, the company used product web pages, its online store and social media websites to make unfounded claims about more than a dozen different CBD products. Examples of the unsupported and unapproved claims made by the company include:
- “CBD has been demonstrated to have properties that counteract the growth of [and/or] spread of cancer.”
- “CBD was effective in killing human breast cancer cells.” | “CBD has also been shown to be effective in treating Parkinson’s disease.”
- “CBD has been linked to the effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease ….”
- “CBD is being adopted more and more as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical-grade treatments for depression and anxiety.”
- “CBD can also be used in conjunction with opioid medications, and a number of studies have demonstrated that CBD can in fact reduce the severity of opioid-related withdrawal and lessen the buildup of tolerance.”
- “CBD oil is becoming a popular, all-natural source of relief used to address the symptoms of many common conditions, such as chronic pain, anxiety … ADHD.”
- “What are the benefits of CBD oil? …. Some of the most researched and well-supported hemp oil uses include …. Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and even schizophrenia …. Chronic pain from fibromyalgia, slipped spinal discs . . . Eating disorders and addiction . . ..”
- “[V]ets will prescribe puppy Xanax to pet owners which can help in certain instances but is not necessarily a desirable medication to give your dog continually. Whereas CBD oil is natural and offers similar results without the use of chemicals.”
- “For dogs experiencing pain, spasms, anxiety, nausea or inflammation often associated with cancer treatments, CBD (aka cannabidiol) may be a source of much-needed relief.”
The FDA has requested responses from Curaleaf within 15 working days stating how the violations will be corrected. Failure to correct the violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure and injunction.
Unsubstantiated claims associated with CBD products may lead consumers to put off getting important medical care, such as proper diagnosis, treatment and supportive care. For that reason, it’s important that consumers talk to a healthcare professional about the best way to treat diseases or conditions with existing, approved treatment options. The FDA also cautions pet owners against the use of such products and recommends talking with a veterinarian about appropriate treatment options for pets. The agency also has not approved cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds like CBD for any use in animals and cannot ensure the safety or effectiveness of these products.
The FDA has previously sent warning letters to other companies illegally selling CBD products that claimed to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure serious diseases, such as cancer. Some of these products were in further violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because they were marketed as dietary supplements or because they involved the addition of CBD to food. The agency encourages health care professionals and consumers to report adverse reactions associated with these or similar products to the agency’s MedWatch program.
Click below to read full FDA news release:
FDA warns company marketing unapproved cannabidiol products with unsubstantiated claims to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, opioid withdrawal, pain and pet anxiety