FDA Questions CBD Cosmetics

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Drug store giants Walgreens, CVS and most recently Rite Aid announced they would begin selling topical products containing CBD in several states.  Presumably, the cosmetic channel is the path of least resistance for mass retailers because cosmetic ingredients are generally not subject to premarket approval by FDA.  The law defines cosmetic products as “intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.”  In other words, cosmetics are a) products intended for topical use, not for consumption, and b) cosmetics cannot be marketed as having medicinal effects.  While CBD may be a fine ingredient for body lotions, the catch may be in the marketing claims that companies make to distinguish and sell their products.  Outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb commented that companies making “drug-like” claims about their cosmetic products may “trip over a federal regulatory line pretty quickly.”  FDA has recently sent warning letters addressing some of the most egregious claims (e.g. CBD cures cancer), but the breadth of FDA’s “regulatory line” is not exactly clear, and some companies are willing to test the limits with less specific, but still health-oriented claims about the benefits of CBD.  FDA may provide some further guidance on what it considers to be “drug-like” claims following a public hearing in May and a written comment period that closes this summer.