When it comes to the majority of cannabidiol (CBD) product advertising out there, many consumers might be surprised to learn how little research is behind the “scientific” claims being made by marketers.
In recent months, Consumers for Safe CBD has been taking a look at the CBD retail marketplace. We have uncovered that many CBD manufacturers are using claims about research, studies, and “science” to sell products that actually have very little research behind them.
Unfortunately, it’s not surprising; the formal, proven Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review process that allows companies to make medical and therapeutic claims is stringent and requires a huge investment of money and time. By evading this process, companies are able to get their products to market—and on shelves—much more quickly. But in the absence of that process, some companies are instead using “research as marketing”—announcing partnerships or prematurely sharing preliminary data from “studies” with legitimate entities to seemingly legitimize medical and therapeutic claims, despite the lack of real, scientific evidence to support them. This phenomenon is not only misleading; it is dangerous and puts consumers at risk.
The cost of the thorough, science-backed research needed to bring a new medicine to market after being approved by the FDA is well into the billions. Legitimate manufacturers spend an average of $2.6 billion to develop a new FDA-approved medicine. The vast majority of CBD consumer products forego this FDA review process, ultimately avoiding critical investment, study, and testing.
And while these CBD manufacturers evade such investments for their products, they profit significantly. The use of CBD products by consumers is skyrocketing – from $512 million in 2018 to $813 million in 2019 – driven, in part, by unscrupulous practices. Our research found that some companies enter into collaborations with academic institutions to enhance their claims of CBD’s therapeutic potential, using even just the announcement of a study to falsely back medical claims and mislead consumers.
This “research” – or to put it more accurately – this marketing tactic – is not nearly substantial enough to ensure safety and effectiveness of these products for therapeutic use. And 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.
CBD manufacturers have long been taking the easy way out, evading the proven FDA review process to make these therapeutic claims with no real consequences. Though the FDA continues to send warning letters to companies that make explicit health treatment claims, there remains no overarching regulatory framework from FDA with regard to CBD, and no real follow-up penalty or action.
More needs to be done to protect consumers, and Consumers for Safe CBD continues to call on the FDA to provide guidance and education to ensure CBD products are safe and effective.
To view the white paper and infographic on the study, click here.