Several American companies have recently made claims that their products, which are derived from marijuana, can treat or cure cancer. These claims sparked intrigue and excitement; unfortunately, the companies could not produce evidence that the claims were true. As noted in a recent press release, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “has grown increasingly concerned at the proliferation of products claiming to treat or cure serious diseases like cancer.” Companies asserting to offer a marijuana treatment for cancer are not only violating the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, but they are also placing vulnerable people at risk by encouraging them to use products that have not been proven to be safe or effective.
Marijuana Treatment for Cancer
Which companies did the FDA target?
On November 1, 2017, the FDA issued warning letters regarding 25+ products to four companies:
- Greenroads Health
- Natural Alchemist
- That’s Natural! Marketing and Consulting
- Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises LLC.
Each company was illegally selling a marijuana treatment for cancer and claiming that the product could prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer without offering any evidence. The products contained cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not approved by the FDA for any drug product. The companies’ unsubstantiated health claims included, “combats tumor and cancer cells,” “makes cancer cells commit ‘suicide’ without killing other cells,” and “[has] anti-proliferative properties that inhibit cell division and growth in certain types of cancer, not allowing the tumor to grow” (source).
Why is this practice dangerous?
The idea of an effective marijuana treatment for cancer is understandably exciting. Hopeful and curious, many people suffering from cancer (and their loved ones) are willing to purchase any product that claims to cure or treat cancer, sometimes not realizing that the claim is unsubstantiated. When people consume a product not approved by the FDA, they place their health and safety at risk. In addition, if a person consumes such a product, they may choose not to use an effectual, recognized, and proven treatment. This deceptive marketing practice endangers the health of Americans.
As FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said, “We don’t let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer, and we’re not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products. There are a growing number of effective therapies for many cancers. When people are allowed to illegally market agents that deliver no established benefit, they may steer patients away from products that have proven, anti-tumor effects that could extend lives” (source).
Although this article focuses on products derived from marijuana that claim to treat cancer, this issue involves many other drugs and diseases. If you or someone you know suffers from cancer or another serious (and perhaps fatal) disease, we encourage you to avoid products not approved by the FDA and to question extraordinary marketing claims.
What is the goal of the FDA?
In addition to issuing warnings to the four companies listed above, the FDA has requested responses that detail how the violations will be corrected. By taking this action, the FDA seeks to remove these products from the market. This will help patients and caregivers make more confident decisions regarding their cancer treatment. If the companies do not effectively correct their mistakes, the FDA may seek legal action.
The FDA has issued dozens of warning letters in the past decade, chastising companies fraudulently marketing products with cancer claims. Although the warnings are aimed at particular companies, the FDA hopes to combat this issue across the industry.
Could a marijuana treatment for cancer exist?
We do not yet know. The FDA understands the desire for an effective cancer-combating therapy derived from marijuana, but it urges companies to work toward this goal through the drug approval process: “We support sound, scientifically-based research using components derived from marijuana, and we’ll continue to work with product developers who are interested in bringing safe, effective, and quality products to market” (source).
Although a treatment for cancer derived from marijuana does not currently exist, the American Cancer Society notes that some studies have found that smoked marijuana can reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Inhaled marijuana can help treat pain caused by damaged nerves. In addition, the American Cancer Society reports that some scientists have found that cannabinoids can slow the growth or cause the death of certain cancer cells in lab dishes. Though encouraging, more extensive testing is required before these results can be translated into effective treatments.
Legalized Marijuana and Drug Testing
Although many states have now legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana, it’s important to remember that many others have not. Keep this in mind as you consider the possibility of a marijuana treatment for cancer. In some states, cancer patients are not legally allowed to possess marijuana.
To better understand the laws that apply to legalized marijuana, including those related to drug testing, review our post Legalized Marijuana: What You Need to Know.
Finally, if you’re interested in implementing a drug testing program, contact Tomo Drug Testing. Based in Springfield, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri, we offer customized solutions to make drug testing simple, and our nationwide network of clinics and providers allows Tomo Drug Testing to be available anytime, anywhere. For a free needs analysis, give us a call today at 1-888-379-7697 or contact us online. We would be happy to help!