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Cannabidiol (CBD) products are in the news

Cannabis Leaf

Pete the Vet General

Cannabidiol (CBD) products are in the news

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning letters to 15 companies for illegally selling products containing cannabidiol (CBD). The FDA also published a revised Consumer Update detailing their safety concerns about CBD products more generally: this update makes some critically important points.

  • The FDA has approved only one CBD product, a prescription drug product to treat two rare, severe forms of epilepsy.

  • It is currently illegal to market CBD by adding it to a food or labeling it as a dietary supplement.

  • The FDA has seen only limited data about CBD safety and these data point to real risks that need to be considered before taking CBD for any reason.

  • Some CBD products are being marketed with unproven medical claims and are of unknown quality.

  • The FDA will continue to update the public as it learns more about CBD.

Risks involving the use of CBD products

The update also shares more detailed clinical information about CBD:

  • CBD has the potential to harm you, and harm can happen even before you become aware of it.

  • CBD can cause liver injury.

  • CBD can affect the metabolism of other drugs, causing serious side effects.

  • Use of CBD with alcohol or other Central Nervous System depressants increases the risk of sedation and drowsiness, which can lead to injuries.

  • CBD can cause side effects that you might notice. These side effects should improve when CBD is stopped or when the amount ingested is reduced.

  • Changes in alertness, most commonly experienced as somnolence (drowsiness or sleepiness).

  • Gastrointestinal distress, most commonly experienced as diarrhea and/or decreased appetite.

  • Changes in mood, most commonly experienced as irritability and agitation.

  • There are many important aspects about CBD that we just don’t know


Some CBD products are being used by pets owners without evidence of their efficacy

This information about CBD products has been written for the human medical world, but it could equally apply to the veterinary sector. Many vets have had clients asking about using CBD oil (eg for dogs with arthritis), and pet shops often stock products containing this as an ingredient.

It’s heartening to see the FDA take the lead on advising members of the public in the USA; with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in the UK, as well as European Medicines Agency (EMA)  take a similarly strong stance? And if they do, will this be enough to convince the public? Or, as I have discussed elsewhere, do we need to do more to persuade people that it’s safest to use regulated, conventional, well-established products to help pets with health issues?

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