The largest arthritis advocacy group in the United States, the Arthritis Foundation, published its first set of guidelines addressing CBD use on Tuesday. This is the first instance of a major patient advocacy group providing guidance on how to safely use products containing CBD, or cannabidiol.
The foundation surveyed over 2,600 patients, almost 80 percent of whom are currently using CBD, have used it, or are considering it for relieving joint pain.
Kevin Boehnke, a research investigator of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan, was involved in developing and writing the guidelines. He told Today, “It was important to acknowledge the public’s interest, and put out some guidelines on the state of the science.”
CBD products flooded the consumer market after Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill in December, which made hemp production legal on a federal level. The bill also removed hemp from the list of Schedule 1 substances in the Controlled Substances Act.
Marijuana, however, is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance. The two cannabis plants differ in the amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) they contain. THC has psychoactive properties which can cause a “high” sensation. Hemp has less than the legal limit of 0.3% THC. Marijuana has more than this amount. Both THC and CBD fall under the category of cannabis compounds called cannabinoids.
Boehnke said the guidelines should not be interpreted as an endorsement of CBD, or a recommendation to use it in place of doctor-prescribed arthritis medications. They were created so that any patients who want to use CBD can take the necessary precautions to ensure safe use, he said.
In July, the Arthritis Foundation submitted its findings to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and urged the agency to expedite the study and regulation of CBD products.
“Based on the Arthritis Foundation’s mission and its research into patient insights, we recommend that the FDA focus on efforts to gather more data on CBD based products and their effects; implement standardized quality control and labeling requirements; and prioritize consumer education about these products,” the foundation said.
The FDA has not approved CBD for the treatment of any disease or condition, and has yet to create a Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for CBD users. So far, the agency has played only a small role in the regulation of the CBD industry.
The FDA has sent warning letters to some CBD companies for marketing products with unsubstantiated health claims. Some CBD product labels claim the product can be an effective treatment against cancer, chronic pain, opioid withdrawal, and other conditions.
One of the frequently asked questions listed in the guidelines was, “Does CBD work for arthritis?” The foundation’s response acknowledged the lack of clinical research, and said “Anecdotally, some people with arthritis who have tried CBD, but not all, report noticeable pain relief, sleep improvement and/or anxiety reduction.”
The Arthritis Foundation recommended consumers be cautious shoppers. “CBD products are largely unregulated in the U.S. market. Independent testing has shown mislabeling and lack of quality control,” the foundation said.
The FDA said it is speeding up its efforts to develop rules and regulations for the CBD industry, and plans to issue a report on its progress this fall.