In Brief

Lay Off 'Pot Cures Cancer' Claims, FDA Warns

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Medical marijuana may help with several health conditions, but it's certainly not a cure for cancer. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on companies that claim their cannabis products can get rid of cancer.

The FDA issued warning letters to four companies that sell products containing cannabidiol (CBD) and claim the ingredient can treat or cure cancer, according to an FDA statement released yesterday (Nov. 1). CBD is a compound found in marijuana, but unlike another compound in the plant called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn't cause psychoactive effects.

CBD is sold in products such as oil drops, teas, capsules, syrups and lotions, the FDA says. [25 Odd Facts About Marijuana]

The four companies — Green Roads Health, Natural Alchemist, That's Natural! Marketing & Consulting, and Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises LLC — sold, in total, more than 25 different types of products with unsubstantiated medical claims, according to the FDA.

Here are some of the claims made by the companies: The product "combats tumor and cancer cells." "CBD makes cancer cells commit 'suicide' without killing other cells." "CBD … [has] anti-proliferative properties that can inhibit cell division and growth in certain types of cancer, not allowing the tumor to grow." And "Non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD (cannabidiol) may be effective in treating tumors from cancer — including breast cancer."

The FDA said in the statement that these products have not been proven to be safe or effective and that making unsubstantiated claims is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

"Substances that contain components of marijuana will be treated like any other products that make unproven claims to shrink cancer tumors," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in the statement. The FDA doesn't allow companies to market products "with baseless claims," Gottlieb said.

"There are a growing number of effective therapies for many cancers," he added. "When people are allowed to illegally market products that deliver no established benefit, they may steer patients away from products that have proven anti-tumor effects that could extend lives."

Originally published on Live Science.

Sara G. Miller
Staff Writer
Sara is a staff writer for Live Science, covering health. She grew up outside of Philadelphia and studied biology at Hamilton College in upstate New York. When she's not writing, she can be found at the library, checking out a big stack of books.