On December 17th, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it was imposing monetary sanctions against six companies producing cannabidiol or CBD products. This is the first time the federal government has taken punitive enforcement action against CBD manufacturers who made unlawful medical claims about their products. These claims included representations that consuming CBD would eliminate pain, produce feelings of youth, and numerous testimonials about how individuals had stopped using prescription drugs for pain medications and replaced them with CBD.
It’s common knowledge that CBD manufacturers cannot make medical claims, especially those not supported by medical scientific studies. And we have seen letters from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) slapping CBD manufacturers on the wrist. This principle is axiomatic, but not always followed by manufacturers and producers of CBD products in this nascent industry. The December 17 announcement was promptly followed up, seven days later, with FDA notifications to five CBD product manufacturers, telling them to cease making medical claims.
The latest round of these targeted CBD products are concerning from a public health perspective, due to the path the administration is taking to regulate this compound. The targets include eye drops and inhalers. The manufacturers were not fined or issued punitive sanctions, but given time to address the alleged violations. The pattern of notification to CBD manufacturers has been somewhat inconsistent over the years.
Around five years ago, we began to see notifications from the FDA without punitive action, but admonitions that CBD products cannot be sold as dietary supplements and manufacturers cannot make such claims. In 2019, similar letters went out again.
It’s important to understand the relationship between the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. While they’re separate entities, they work together. The FDA is responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices, along with ensuring the safety of the American food supply, as well as cosmetics. The FDA has oversight over pharmaceutical drugs, foods, food additives, animal food, supplements, personal care products, and tobacco. It also oversees ingredients in alcohol beverages, which are generally governed by the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission is an independent organization working to promote competition to protect and educate consumers. These agencies’ purview overlaps, particularly as it relates…