FTC Issues Warning Letters on CBD Health Claims

By Lauren Hopkins and Christopher Strunk

 

On September 10, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to three companies selling oils, tinctures, capsules, gummies and creams containing cannabidiol (CBD).

The letters warn the companies of potential violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act), which the FTC has long interpreted to require competent and reliable scientific evidence prior to disseminating health claims for consumer products.  FTC Act violations may result in cease and desist orders, corrective advertising orders, orders to pay consumer redress, civil penalties, and (in extreme cases) civil or criminal contempt actions.

The FTC highlighted as problematic the following CBD-related health claims:

  • “works like magic” to relieve “even the most agonizing pain” better than prescription opioid painkillers;
  • “miracle pain remedy” for both acute and chronic pain;
  • “clinically proven” to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, cigarette addiction, and colitis;
  • proven to treat autism, anorexia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, psoriasis, and AIDS; and
  • highly effective at treating “the root cause of most major degenerative diseases.”

The FTC is urging the companies to review all claims made for their products, including consumer testimonials, to ensure that they are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.  Each company must notify the FTC within 15 days of the specific actions they have taken to address the agency’s concerns.  The names of the companies have not been made public. Notably, this action follows on the heels of action taken by the agency in March 2019, when the FTC joined the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in sending similar letters to other CBD sellers.

The enforcement efforts echo the themes raised by two of the National Industrial Hemp Council’s 2019 Business Summit’s keynote speakers, Lowell Schiller of FDA and Greg Ibach of USDA, who cautioned against making such unwarranted claims.  While Federal agencies are seeking to work together to promulgate common-sense regulations for the hemp industry, action will be taken to tamp down on actors who do not comply.  Accordingly, companies considering health-related claims for CBD products should be mindful of the stringent substantiation requirements for such claims, as well as the ongoing FTC and FDA scrutiny.

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