By Peter Pitts, CannabisBPO Advisory Board Member
ast week the FDA issued its most recent thinking on CBD:
Under the title, “FDA Advances Work Related to Cannabidiol Products with Focus on Protecting Public Health, Providing Market Clarity,” it was, to anyone paying attention, a regulatory finger-wag to a still-nascent industry that still just doesn’t get it. Alas, a lot of bad science doesn’t equal even a little good science. Sometimes the view from the front of the black helicopter gets boring.
The FDA statement begins, “Over the past year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has embarked on a comprehensive evaluation of cannabidiol (CBD) products, with a focus on educating the public about the risks and unknowns of these products, gathering the science needed to better understand both these safety concerns and potential benefits to inform our regulatory approach, as well as taking steps when necessary to address products that violate the law in ways that raise a variety of public health concerns.”
Translation: There’s no good science and we’re going to start writing enforcement letters.
The agency continues, “Today, we are providing updates on our efforts in this area, including several new steps in areas of education, research and enforcement with the ultimate goal of continuing to protect the public health and working to provide market clarity.
Translation: It’s going to be a slow process and we’re obviously going to have to help you. Ignore the need for real science at your own peril. Oh, and about those claims, “… we are concerned that some people wrongly think that the myriad of CBD products on the market have been evaluated by the FDA and determined to be safe, or that using CBD ‘can’t hurt.’ Aside from one prescription drug approved to treat two rare, severe pediatric epilepsy disorders, no other CBD products have been evaluated or approved by the FDA.” Better lawyer up, bro.
Safety issues? “There may be risks that need to be considered before using CBD products outside of the monitored setting of a prescription from your health care provider.”
Translation: We think there may very well be safety issues such as:
“… potential liver injury, interactions with other drugs and male reproductive toxicity, as well as side effects such as drowsiness. In addition, there is still much we do not know about other potential risks. For example, other than the approved prescription drug, we know little about the potential effects of sustained and/or cumulative use of CBD, co-administration with other medicines, or the risks to vulnerable populations like children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly, unborn children and certain animal populations. This does not mean that we know CBD is unsafe …”
Translation: … or if CBD is an antidote to COVID-19. But we have our suspicions.
“To address the questions and concerns we’ve already raised, we’re seeking reliable and high-quality data.”
Translation: We don’t have it because it doesn’t exist.
“This includes data on, among other things: the sedative effects of CBD; the impacts of long-term sustained or cumulative exposure to CBD; transdermal penetration and pharmacokinetics of CBD; the effect of different routes of CBD administration (e.g., oral, topical, inhaled) on its safety profile; the safety of CBD for use in pets and food-producing animals; and the processes by which “full spectrum” and “broad spectrum” hemp extracts are derived, what the content of such extracts is, and how these products may compare to CBD isolate products.”
Translation: You guys had better hire some pharmacologists.
“Given the importance of answering these questions, we’re exploring a number of ways to address the data gaps as quickly as possible. This includes encouraging, facilitating and initiating more research on CBD, providing venues for industry and researchers to share new data with the agency and identifying opportunities to further collaborate with our federal partners at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and National Institute on Drug Abuse on this important issue.”
Translation: We’re going to hold meetings!
But there is also good news:
“Importantly, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 … has opened significant new opportunities for research, and as that body of research develops and grows, there will be considerably more information available. In particular, there’s been an increased interest in drug development from CBD and other compounds found in cannabis and we are working to support drug development as much as possible.”
Translation: Goodbye IPO and hello CRO expenses and academic research grants that don’t care a brass farthing about marketplace needs and schedules.
Comrades, it’s going to be a long and winding road.
“In the coming days, we are re-opening the public docket we established for our May 2019 public hearing. The docket provides a valuable conduit for submission of scientific data on CBD to the agency, so we have decided to extend the comment period indefinitely to allow the public to comment and to share relevant data with the agency. As the agency continues to move forward to explore viable pathways for CBD products outside the drug context, this extension will allow stakeholders to continue to provide relevant data as research in this area evolves.”
Translation: Key word, “indefinitely.”
And in conclusion:
“We recognize the significant public interest in CBD and we must work together with stakeholders and industry to develop high-quality data to close the substantial knowledge gaps about the science, safety, and quality of many of these products. We are committed to working efficiently to further clarify our regulatory approach to these products – as always, using science as our guide and upholding our rigorous public health standards.”
Translation: Stop moaning and groaning — and science-up.
About Peter Pitts
Peter Pitts is a Visiting Professor at Université de Paris Descartes Medical School and President of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest. He is a former member of the United States Senior Executive Service and Associate Commissioner of the US Food & Drug Administration. Pitts is a member of the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) Expert Working Group to help advance patient involvement in the development and safe use of medicines. (CIOMS is an international, non-governmental, non-profit organization established jointly by WHO and UNESCO in 1949.) He is the lead author of many professional peer-reviewed publications including the Lancet, Therapeutic Innovation and Regulatory Science, and Nature Biotechnology. He is an Associate Editor of Therapeutic Innovation & Regulatory Science (the official DIA journal), a member of the External Advisory Board, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics in Asia, Executive Advisory Board, the Galien Foundation, Editorial Advisory Board, Food and Drug Policy Forum, Advisory Board, Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of The Patient Magazine. Pitts lives in New York City.
CannabisBPO is a specialty provider of contact center services for the cannabis industry. With locations in Canada and the US, the company offers outbound and inbound contact center services in a 24/7 setting. The company’s core service channels are text, email, mail, phone, chat and social media for customer service, sales, and technical support projects. CannabisBPO helps cannabis companies drive revenue and mitigate risks. For more information, visit https://cannabisbpo.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.