Cannabis operators (from marijuana to hemp-derived products such as CBD) often feel like they are one of the prime targets of the federal government’s reach. But they haven’t been in the same league lately as the COVID-19 virus. Earlier this month, these worlds collided.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have jointly published warning letters to companies that have claimed or implied that these companies’ products will cure, mitigate, treat or prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). As the agencies have made clear, no drugs containing CBD have been approved for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. We have already covered similar warning letters regarding the marketing of CBD products (here and here). These warning letters are also not limited to CBD companies; the FTC has previously issued similar warning letters in 2020 to companies for making similar claims about the ability of other products to treat or prevent COVID-19.
The agencies warned these companies that such statements violated the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and the Federal Trade Commission Act, and demanded that these companies take immediate action to end these representations. regarding their products. In one case, the agencies noted that the company the website contained a link a 2021 study from the National Institute of Health indicating that CBD “reverses many effects of COVID-19, preventing the infection from getting worse and promoting future immunity”; a study by researchers at the University of Chicago showing “a significant negative association with positive COVID tests” for people taking CBD; and a 2022 study from the American Chemical Society and the American Society of Pharmacognosy concluding that CBD binds to COVID-19 spike proteins and prevents the virus from entering cells and causing infection. After citing these studies published on the company’s website, the agencies demanded that the company “take immediate action to remedy the violations cited in [the] letter.” The agency letters are a stark reminder that companies should avoid marketing a substance’s purported health benefits or effectiveness in treating or preventing disease, regardless of what evidence may exist to support it. such statement, unless such product has been approved, cleared, or cleared by the FDA for such purpose.