Why CBD Products Might Be Controlled As Dietary Supplements

Why CBD Products Might Be Controlled As Dietary Supplements

If you follow this column and keep a close eye on the cannabidiol (CBD) market, you know that the FDA considers the sale and marketing of CBD-infused dietary supplements unlawful. Since CBD was examined and authorized as a brand-new drug ingredient– Epidiolex– before CBD was marketed as a dietary supplement, the sale and marketing of these products breaks the FDCA.

Yet, regardless of the FDA’s position, a growing variety of CBD stakeholders have been arguing that the Drug Exemption Rule does not use to their CBD items sold and marketed as dietary supplements because they consist of full- or broad-spectrum hemp extract, rather than CBD isolate, which is the substance that was approved in Epidiolex.

This distinction can be connected to a 2001 court choice, Pharmanex, Inc. v. Shalala, which pertained to the status of lovastatin, a substance found in red yeast rice. Although red yeast rice had actually been utilized for healing purposes for countless years, the isolated substance was authorized by the FDA as a drug component in the treatment of cholesterol.

Following the approval of lovastatin as a drug active ingredient, the FDA challenged making use of this compound in a dietary supplement and prevailed. The court held that the lovastatin found in the dietary supplement was not in its natural kind due to the fact that its manufacturer intentionally picked and utilized an approach to produce specific levels of lovastatin that were greater than those naturally present in red yeast rice. In addition, the court determined that the item sold as a dietary supplement was a drug since it was expressly marketed as the separated lovastatin compound.

The Pharmanex case might dictate how the FDA treats hemp CBD dietary supplements, particularly complete- and broad-spectrum hemp extracts.

Hemp, including full- and broad-spectrum hemp extracts, includes numerous active substances, consisting of cannabinoids and terpenes. Hemp can be processed in a number of methods, some of which will isolate those active substances. The active substances can be separated through chemical extraction by getting rid of water, fiber, and other undesirable products. Additionally, hemp can be processed without the use of chemicals.

Epidiolex is an example of a CBD isolate. Generally, a CBD isolate contains no other compounds.

Following the reasoning in the Pharmanex case, CBD isolate might be subject to the Drug Exclusion Guideline, however processed hemp, such as complete- and broad-spectrum hemp extracts, might not. This is because, like red yeast rice, hemp has been taken in as a food and a dietary supplement for thousands of years. Hemp and complete- and broad-spectrum hemp extracts are not the like a CBD isolate. Like lovastatin taking place in its natural type, hemp and complete- and broad-spectrum hemp extracts are not chemically boosted. Nevertheless, CBD isolate or processed hemp which contains isolated and increased concentrations of CBD would be comparable to the separated lovastatin compound in the Pharmanex case, and therefore, might only be lawfully sold as drugs.

The parallels in between the Pharmanex case and CBD are tough to overlook. However, while this legal argument has benefit, it is simply speculative. Certainly, to my knowledge, no CBD company has actually yet brought forth this legal theory to challenge the FDA’s position in a court of law.

Nonetheless, it is worth pointing out that in its declaration released shortly after the enactment of the Farming Improvement Act of 2018 (the 2018 Farm Costs), the FDA recommended that it may consider such argument against the application of the Drug Exemption Rule to complete- and broad-spectrum hemp extracts in managing CBD items:

[P] athways remain offered for the FDA to consider whether there are circumstances in which certain cannabis-derived substances may be permitted in a food or dietary supplement. Such items are normally prohibited to be presented in interstate commerce, the FDA has authority to provide a policy permitting the use of a pharmaceutical component in a food or dietary supplement.

Certainly, as the company explained in its 2016 draft assistance for brand-new dietary ingredient notices, the FDA Secretary has the authority to bypass the Drug Exclusion Rule by providing “a policy, after notification and comment, finding that the component, when utilized as or in a dietary supplement, would be legal under [the FDCA].”

Additionally, the recent introduction in Congress of H.R. 5587, which would excuse hemp CBD from the FDCA’s Drug Exclusion Rule, thereby permitting the sale of hemp CBD as a dietary supplement in interstate commerce, recommends that lawmakers are not pleased with the company’s existing treatment of hemp CBD products and support the market’s position that CBD items be controlled as dietary supplements.

Only time will inform how the FDA will ultimately manage CBD products, but something seems certain: if the FDA opts to maintain a strong position and deal with all CBD dietary supplements as “drugs,” then the parallels between red yeast rice and hemp CBD will likely be prosecuted to settle this issue.


Nathalie Bougenies practices in the Portland workplace of Harris Bricken and was named a “2019 Increasing Star” by Super Attorney Publication, an honor bestowed on only 2.5%of eligible Oregon lawyers. Nathalie’s practice focuses on the regulative structure of hemp-derived CBD (” hemp CBD”) items. She is an authority on FDA enforcement, Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act and other laws and regulations surrounding hemp and hemp CBD products.

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