Pharmacists are calling for better regulation of products claiming to contain the cannabis derivative cannabidiol (CBD). Non-medicinal CBD is widely available for sale in High Street shops across the country, including chemists. And according to manufacturers, there has been a spike in demand within the last 12 months. Now, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) says the products need clearer information and better checks on content.

CBD is closely related to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant. However, it has quite different pharmacological effects. CBD does not change the state of mind of the person who uses it. However, it does appear to produce significant changes in the body and has been found to have medical benefits. As well as being beneficial for treating a number of ailments, it can promote sleep, boost appetite and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Studies also indicate that it can help with childhood epilepsy seizures.

CBD oil is being added to a range of products, from water, to chocolate, tea and coffee, and even beauty products. Manufacturers claim sales in the UK are as much as £300 million.

Jasmine Shah from the NPA, which represents hundreds of independent pharmacies, says an increasing number of pharmacists are stocking CBD products, despite the fact there is very limited research on the safety and efficacy of the products.

It’s illegal to print any health claims on the products, but it’s a grey area as to who checks the ingredients, or the amount of CBD oil actually contained in each product, reports the BBC. Many of the CBD products can be very expensive.

Ms Shah says pharmacists would like “clear authoritative guidance which makes it easy for healthcare professions, consumers and patients to make informed choices”.

FSA demands detailed information

Because CBD is classed as a food supplement it is governed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The FSA has now asked manufacturers to give specific information about the product. They will have to include important scientific details including what it contains, purity levels, manufacturing practices, as well as demonstrating it is safe for people to consume.

The FSA says that despite ample time and repeated requests to CBD manufacturers they’ve not heard enough from any company in this lucrative industry to give them authorisation yet.

Ms Shah believes that this stance puts those selling the product in a difficult position.

“It’s for each pharmacist to decide whether its suitable to stock a CBD product or not, but in terms of the safety and efficacy of it more research is required”, she says.

The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, which represents around 20 CBD brands, says members are “unequivocally committed to achieving Novel Foods status via the Food Standards Agency”.

The FSA says it is considering the best way to ensure CBD food-related products currently on the market move towards compliance. In the meantime, customers buying any CBD product have no guarantees if the product is safe, or indeed if it contains any CBD oil at all.

An longer article on CBD and cannabis oil can be found on our Learning Centre.

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