Study Finds CBD Companies Marketing Implicit, Unsubstantiated Claims through Academic Joint Partnerships in an Unregulated Marketplace
Carol McKay, National Consumers League
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC – Consumers for Safe CBD founding member, National Consumers League (NCL) today released a white paper that explores the great lengths that some unscrupulous CBD manufacturers are taking to sell unregulated, untested products in the marketplace at the risk of public health. This includes trying to legitimize medical claims by leveraging the reputation of academic medical centers—despite the lack of evidence to support those claims.
Cannabidiol (CBD) use and popularity has continued to increase, despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that CBD cannot be generally regarded as safe (GRAS) for use in food and beverage products. Evidence suggests that consumers believe that CBD has both medical benefits and health maintenance effects. However, there is only scientific-backed proof of medical benefits in regards to the single FDA-approved CBD prescription drug product available. CBD products in the direct-to-consumer market lack sufficient regulatory oversight, and put consumers – and further research into CBD’s therapeutic potential – at risk.
As the CBD market has continued to boom, with sales jumping from $512 million in 2018 to $813 million in 2019, CBD companies are entering into collaborations with academic institutions to enhance their claims of CBD’s therapeutic potential. This white paper finds that some companies appear to be leveraging these partnerships to prematurely claim that their product’s promotional claims are backed by “research,” which in most cases is intended to mislead consumers and risk public health.
“It is arguably unethical and certainly misleading for commercial entities to use the legitimacy of early scientific clinical research – and the announcement of such endeavors – as a marketing tool,” according to the study. “It is tantamount to making, or at minimum implying, a claim without substantial evidence: simply put, that is not how it should be done.”
“This is a serious risk to public health,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Consumers are being led to believe that these CBD companies, often times working with legitimate entities, have thoroughly studied the claims they’re making. In fact, this ‘research’ used – or even simply announced via marketing tactics – is not nearly substantial enough to ensure safety and effectiveness of these products for therapeutic use. We must rely on the FDA approval process to be sure our products meet the gold standard for use.”
Touting “research” in this way not only puts consumers at risk, it undermines efforts to thoroughly study CBD’s medical benefits through the FDA approval process. The FDA continues to take enforcement action against companies making explicit health treatment claims, but there remains no overarching regulatory framework from FDA.
FDA has stated in the past, “If the widespread availability of consumer CBD products were to significantly discourage clinical research, our knowledge of CBD’s potential medical uses could be stunted.”
The new white paper studies the importance of FDA regulatory approval and oversight, demonstrates the need for scientific and FDA-backed research and data on CBD and its potential benefits, and provides a snapshot of the current unregulated market and “research as marketing” that may be misleading the public.
About the National Consumers League (NCL)
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.