By Pat Anson, PNN Editor
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is once again going after companies that make unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) products. The crackdown, called “Operation CBDeceit,” is part of the agency’s ongoing effort to protect consumers from misleading health claims.
The FTC announced that six sellers of CBD oils, topical creams, gummies, lozenges and other products have signed administrative settlements agreeing not to make any further deceptive claims that CBD can treat pain, migraines, arthritis, cancer, heart disease and other health conditions.
“These CBD sellers lacked the scientific proof to back up their extreme claims. In fact, they often didn’t have any proof at all. But that didn’t stop them from saying these benefits were clinically proven. In truth, CBD is not a magical cure-all and there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence for these kinds of over-the-top health claims,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The FTC complaint against Utah-based Bionatrol Health alleged the company claimed its CBD products treat pain better than prescription medications like OxyContin. The company also allegedly deceived customers who ordered one bottle of its CBD oil by changing the order to five bottles without their consent.
The proposed settlement requires Bionatrol to pay $20,000 to the FTC and to notify customers about the FTC order. Similar settlements were reached with the other five companies.
This isn’t the first time the FTC and other federal agencies have gone after sellers of CBD, kratom and other dietary settlements for making unsubstantiated health claims.
The enforcement actions are sporadic and usually only target small companies. Sometimes a warning letter is as far as it goes and the company makes only a minor change in its marketing claims.
In March 2019, for example, the FTC and Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Nutra Pure, telling the company its hemp and CBD oils were unapproved drugs under federal law and “may not be legally introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce.”
Nearly two years later, the company is still selling hemp and CBD oils, and has a disclaimer on its CBDPure website stating that its products “are not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease.”
But when this reporter posed as a customer in an online chat with “Catherine,” a CBDPure representative, we were assured that CBD can treat pain and other health conditions.
Customer: “Hi I’m wondering if you can recommend a CBD product for arthritis pain.”
Catherine: “Our oils are 300, 600 or 1000 mg CBD in full spectrum hemp oil. People with a mild condition or just looking to improve health start with the 300mg or 600mg. People with more severe or chronic conditions typically purchase the 1000 mg CBDPure hemp oil or 750 mg CBDPure soft gel.”
Customer: “Will they help with pain and other health conditions?”
Catherine: “Yes. There are numerous studies showing CBD has the ability to provide therapeutic benefits in the treatment of various conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, anxiety/depression, nausea, epilepsy, insomnia and sleep issues, fibromyalgia, glaucoma and many other ailments.”
Customer: “That’s interesting. I have a friend with fibromyalgia. Is there something that can help her?”
Catherine: “Yes. Same deal. Ideally, you start off with a lower mg dose and increase the amount you take weekly until you find what works for your body chemistry.”
Customer: “And it’ll eventually make the pain go away once you find the right dose?”
Catherine: “Yes. It really depends on how your body tolerates and adapts to these dietary supplements.”
FTC officials say false claims about the therapeutic benefits of CBD and other supplements create a “real potential for serious harm to consumers health and safety.” But in a briefing with reporters announcing the six settlements reached in Operation CBDeceit, they acknowledged their investigation did not find any evidence about customers being harmed by the companies’ products.
“We’re not here saying CBD products are dangerous or that CBD products can’t offer benefits. Just that if you’re going to tout health benefits of your products, those claims have to be truthful and they have to be substantiated by the science,” said Smith.