Stop The 'Pot Cures Cancer' Claims, FDA Warns

By Victoria Kim 11/06/17

The FDA has accused a handful of companies of issuing "baseless claims" about the medical benefits of products containing cannabidiol.

female doctor holding marijuana leaf and holding hand out in stop gesture

Four companies received warning letters last week from the Food and Drug Administration, for allegedly marketing their cannabis-based products to consumers as alternative cancer treatments.

The FDA accuses the companies—Greenroads Health, Natural Al-chemist, That’s Natural! Marketing and Consulting, and Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises LLC—of “illegally selling products online that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer without evidence to support these outcomes,” according to a press release. 

The FDA says that misleading consumers about the health benefits of these products is not only a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, but puts patients at risk if they choose to rely on the product instead of other recognized therapies.

“We recognize that there’s interest in developing therapies from marijuana and its components, but the safest way for this to occur is through the drug approval process—not through unsubstantiated claims made on a website,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement.

The products in question contain cannabidiol (CBD) a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that’s often hailed for its therapeutic properties. The products come in many different forms, namely oils, topical lotions, syrups, teas, and capsules.

The FDA stressed that the compound is not approved “in any drug product for any indication.” A drug approval review by the agency would involve determining proper dosages, interactions with other drugs, and potential side effects.

According to the FDA, some of the “baseless claims” the companies have made in regard to their CBD products include that they can “combat tumor and cancer cells,” “make cancer cells commit ‘suicide’ without killing other cells,” and that CBD has “anti-proliferative properties that inhibit cell division and growth in certain types of cancer, not allowing the tumor to grow.”

The American Cancer Society does acknowledge existing research that has suggested that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD "slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells" tested in a lab setting. "Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer," according to the organization’s website. 

But the organization says there’s no evidence that cannabis can help cure cancer: “While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.”

Two approved prescription medications based on cannabis compounds—Dronabinol and Nabilone—are already being used for treating nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite that occur in patients battling cancer and AIDS.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr