FDA quashes wild CBD claims as cure for cancer, Alzheimer’s, depression in people, pets

The US-based company was warned for selling CBD-containing drugs without studies or trials to back up its claims.

The US Food and Drug Administration this week sent an announcement to a CBD company that claimed to be making products to treat a slew of life-threatening illnesses in humans including cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression, opioid addiction, chronic pain, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What's more, the company, Curaleaf, also has products that claim to treat anxiety, pain, and diabetes in cats and dogs. A single ingredient was attributed to all the remarkable range of benefits: the popular cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD. Curaleaf was given a public, warning letter for selling unapproved, illegal CBD-containing drugs that have benefits not adequately backed by studies or clinical trials.


"Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims...can put patients and consumers at risk by leading them to put off important medical care," Ned Sharpless, Acting FDA Commissioner, said in a statement. "There are many unanswered questions about the science, safety, effectiveness, and quality of unapproved products containing CBD." To get the ball rolling, a public hearing was held by the FDA in May speaking to CBD safety.

The FDA also spoke to the growing interest in the pharmaceutical industry to explore products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds for their medical and treatment benefits. The FDA has established an internal working group to explore the potential treatment options that can be lawfully marketed as a CBD product. One important part of this work will be evaluating and addressing questions about the safety of CBD products (and therefore, how these can be regulated).

In the warning letter issued to Curaleaf, the FDA cites unfounded claims about a dozen different CBD products from product pages, the online store as well as the company's social media websites. Some of the unsupported claims handpicked by the FDA are:

"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." 

Curaleaf, in response, has said that it is "committed to the highest standards of quality and compliance" and will "work collaboratively with the FDA to resolve all issues addressed" in the FDA's letter. Unfortunately for Curalead, though, it has been given two weeks to clean up its act.

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