FDA Issues Draft Guidance on CBD Clinical Research and Submits CBD Enforcement Policy to OMB for Review

July 2020 has been a busy month in the CBD world whereby FDA issues draft guidance on CBD clinical research and submits CBD enforcement policy to OMB for review.

After much anticipation, the FDA has begun to address its policies on CBD. On July 21, 2020, FDA issued draft guidance on clinical research involving CBD-containing investigational drugs and other cannabis-derived compounds. Further, on July 22, 2020, the long-awaited draft guidance on CBD enforcement policy was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for a review. 

To date, FDA’s movement has not officially changed the existing position on the legal and regulatory status of various CBD-containing consumer products, but more is expected. Still, the recent reports to Congress and draft guidance on investigations involving CBD and other cannabis-derived compounds do provide us with a glimpse of FDA’s current reasoning surrounding CBD.

Clinical Research Draft Guidance

On July 21, 2020, FDA issued draft guidance on quality considerations for clinical research where cannabis-derived compounds are concerned. The guidance titled “Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Compounds: Quality Considerations for Clinical Research” builds off previous guidance FDA had issued regarding the quality and regulatory considerations that govern the development and FDA approval of cannabis products. The draft guidance highlights the following key points :

1. Sourcing of Cannabis

For many years, the only domestic source of cannabis for legal clinical research was the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Drug Supply Program (DSP), but with the changes made by the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp can serve as a source for cannabis cannabis-derived compounds for drug development. This change gives the investigational drug sponsors of clinical studies new options that do not involve the NIDA DSP.

2. Quality Considerations

Sponsors of cannabis-derived compounds will be expected to provide sufficient information to ensure the identity, quality, purity, and potency or strength of the investigational product. Furthermore, there will be a requirement to provide quantitative data regarding phytochemicals present in their proposed product, such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The guidance goes on to list several helpful resources from which sponsors may obtain more information about specific methodologies and other related insights. The guidance clarifies that cannabis is held to the same regulatory standards as any other botanical raw material, botanical drug substance, or botanical drug product; therefore, any FDA guidance that pertains to such items will also be helpful. 

3. THC Calculation

The guidance acknowledges some of the challenges of calculating THC and notes the importance of consulting the DEA before commencing drug-development activities. Amongst other things, the FDA recommends that sponsors calculate the THC level in their product candidates early in the development process to gain insight into its potential control status.

Cannabidiol Enforcement Policy Draft Guidance 

On July 22, 2020, the FDA sent its draft Cannabidiol Enforcement Policy to OMB for review. The scope and the contents of the document titled “Cannabidiol Enforcement Policy; Draft guidance for Industry” are not yet publicly available, but the industry is eagerly anticipating the long-awaited guidance on CBD enforcement.

While the full extent of the FDA’s intended enforcement consideration will be clear only when guidance is finally released, we expect, like many others, that FDA will focus its efforts on consumer products that carry the most significant risk to public health. Therefore, we anticipate that the enforcement guidance will focus on lawful marketing and transparency.

We will continue to monitor the FDA’s issuance of the enforcement guidance and update as soon as it passes the OMB review. Make sure to sign up to our newsletter for further updates.