January 20, 2022
Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 945-3242
Washington, DC—The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs today released new research that reveals the various tactics cannabidiol (CBD) companies use to thwart the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review process and assert that their therapeutical claims are backed by science.
The study, The Use of Academic Research in Medical-Cannabis Marketing: A Qualitative and Quantitative Review, illuminates the need for FDA regulatory approval and stronger oversight to address the risks to consumers and patients alike when companies exploit that system. The findings reveal nearly 1,000 health claims touting CBD’s ability to mitigate symptoms or treat mental health, autism, pain, sexual health, AIDS, cancer, COVID-19, and more, providing just a snapshot of the current, unregulated marketing tactics being used to mislead the public.
The research was commissioned by Consumers for Safe CBD, a campaign spearheaded by the National Consumers League and conducted by Data Science Solutions. The research took place in the summer of 2020 and was published today in the Journal.
“It’s important that consumers understand what they’re up against when it comes to the current marketplace,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Day in and day out we see CBD products promoted by celebrities and ‘health experts’ who have no clue what is truly in the products they push. This research helps give a snapshot of just how many misleading claims are out there and will help consumers better understand how to identify — and know to question — marketing red flags.”
“Unfortunately, many CBD manufacturers talk quite a bit about research, but have rarely engaged in the kind of large-scale randomized controlled trials necessary to establish that a drug is safe and effective,” said Theo Caputi, M.P.H, M.SC. author of the study. “CBD products are flooding the retail marketplace — readily available to consumers — and this review shows a serious need for adequate research and testing to ensure safety of these products and effectiveness for the claims companies are making.”
Most of the top medical marijuana companies analyzed:
- use the existence of academic partnerships and observational relationships in an effort to legitimize health claims, despite having little to no clinical trial activity;
- routinely use academic research in marketing strategies (“research as marketing”) to mislead the public; and,
- evade FDA approval process by creating their own pseudo-approval process, making products appear legitimate, safe, effective, and eligible for insurance coverage for a range of health claims through these “research as marketing” tactics.
“It is alarming to see so many companies purposefully evading the FDA process — the gold standard in consumer protection — and making therapeutic claims with little to no real, clinical evidence,” said Greenberg. “Many of these companies have received warning letters from the FDA, yet these harmful and misleading tactics continue. It’s time for Congress to empower FDA to use its full authority to protect consumers. Consumers for Safe CBD will continue to serve as a watchdog to ensure CBD products are safe and effective.”
The CBD market continues to grow despite the FDA stating that CBD cannot be generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for use in food and beverage products. According to a Statista report, CBD sales in the U.S. reached $4.6 billion in 2020. By 2026, the market is expected to grow to $16 billion. Consumers, through these “research as marketing” tactics, have been led to believe that CBD has both medical benefits and health maintenance effects. However, there is only thorough, scientific-backed proof of medical benefits in the one and only FDA-approved CBD prescription drug product available.
“It is arguably unethical and certainly misleading for commercial entities to use the legitimacy of early scientific research — and the announcement of such endeavors — as a marketing tool,” Caputi added, “In fact, this ‘research’ used — or even simply announced in press releases — is not nearly substantial enough to ensure safety and effectiveness of these products for therapeutic use. We must rely on the rigorous FDA approval process to be sure these products meet the gold standard for safety and efficacy.”
Click HERE to read the full study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
To learn more about the risks of unregulated CBD, visit 4safecbd.org.
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.