FDA warns CBD sellers about false or unproven treatment claims: Internet Scambusters #960
Outrageous claims about the treatment and cure potential of the marijuana extract CBD could be putting people's health at risk.
The US Food and Drug Administration has already fired warning shots across the bow of some sellers, but the scams continue.
We explore the problem in this week's issue and offer you five steps you can take to ensure you don't fall foul of the tricksters.
Let's get started…
Don't Get Tricked By CBD 'Cure' Claims
CBD, the non-psychoactive element of marijuana and legal extract of hemp is being hailed by many as the wonder drug of the 21st century.
But there's either limited or no evidence of its effectiveness for a wide range of disorders including insomnia and pain relief. Some sellers also outrageously claim it can be used in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. There's not a shred of proof for this.
CBD, though legal in some forms throughout the US, is not approved for treatment by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), except for the seizure control drug Epidiolex. But that hasn't stopped scammers from making outrageous cure claims, which has led the agency to issue warnings to several product makers and sellers.
Furthermore, the spread of legalization of the psychoactive extract THC -- the compound that makes users 'high' -- is likely to lead to even more shocking claims about effectiveness.
(Currently, use of THC, although approved at state level by some states, is considered illegal nationwide by the Federal government.)
The biggest worry about the CBD scam is that the claims usually have the greatest appeal to people with chronic medical issues, precisely those who can least afford to gamble with their health.
Using CBD -- full name cannabidiol -- as an alternative remedy could mean that a patient is not taking the medication they should be or it could complicate or defeat the effectiveness of prescribed medication.
The drug is usually sold as either a CBD tincture or edible product. In other cases, it may be mixed with other chemicals or herbs. That may be legal, but it's the claims some sellers are making that puts them on the wrong side of the law.
"FDA continues to be concerned at the proliferation of products asserting to contain CBD that are marketed for therapeutic or medical uses although they have not been approved by FDA," the agency says.
"Often such products are sold online and are therefore available throughout the country. Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective."
Now the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stepped in with a crackdown in a campaign it has labeled "CBDeceit." Initially, the Commission has targeted six firms it accuses of using deceptive marketing tactics.
In one case, a seller allegedly made unsubstantiated claims that its product was "medically proven" and safe for all users and that it treated pain better than prescription products.
In other cases, people who ordered one bottle of a product received five instead and were charged for it.
A couple of firms have already been fined and told to notify customers about what has happened.
5 Steps to Protect Yourself
If you're considering taking CBD or a product containing it, use the following steps to avoid a scam:
- Take any claims that a CBD-based product is scientifically proven to cure or treat your symptoms with a pinch of salt. Use caution to prevent losing money and, possibly, putting your health at risk.
- Always talk to your doctor or health specialist about any alternative remedies you are considering using.
- Similarly, don't stop taking any existing meds without checking with your health professional.
- Don't fall for ads that claim their product is "guaranteed" to treat your condition or illness. There are no such guarantees, even in the world of most legitimate drugs, so you can safely ignore them.
- Learn and understand more about the FDA's concerns and the current legal position on drug approval here: FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol. You can also see the FTC's announcement naming the firms it accuses of using misleading statements here: FTC Announces Crackdown on Deceptively Marketed CBD Products.
"Companies that represent expressly or by implication that what they sell can prevent, treat, or cure serious medical conditions will be held to the highest substantiation standards," FTC says, "and marketers can expect careful scrutiny of those promises."
Even so, the FDA acknowledges "the potential therapeutic opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds could offer" and that there is "significant interest in these possibilities."
Investigations and research of CBD are ongoing, spearheaded in the US by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).
As early as 2019, the Center said it had specific safety concerns about CBD including possible liver damage, interactions with other drugs, drowsiness, diarrhea, and mood changes.
"We remain concerned that consumers may also put off getting important medical care, such as proper diagnosis, treatment, and supportive care due to unsubstantiated claims associated with CBD products," said CDER.
"For that reason, it's important that consumers talk to a health care professional about treatment options scientifically proven to be effective."
Alert of the Week
Technology giant Microsoft has taken a fair amount of criticism about the functionality of its app store, compared with those of Apple and Android.
It's understood the firm plans to revamp its store.
But, in the meantime, if you use the existing store or want to install certain apps like Spotify and FreePDFConvert, watch out for a new scam using fake pages that aim to upload malware onto your PC.
Play safe by always starting your Windows app search from the correct place, either https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/windows or via the store icon on your PC.
Time to close today, but we'll be back next week with another issue. See you then!