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Is CBD the Next Opportunity for Health Care?

Legalization of Hemp-Derived CBD

The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, or the Farm Bill, legalized industrial hemp and by extension, hemp-derived CBD. This legislation is credited with the rapid growth of CBD products.

Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is getting a lot of attention in medical circles. The non-intoxicating cannabis or hemp extract is credited with treating a variety of clinical problems, including seizures, anxiety, inflammation and insomnia.

A new study reveals that nearly 7% of Americans use CBD, and that number is expected to reach 10% by 2025. However, several pain points are keeping non-acute healthcare providers from recommending CBD to their patients:

  • CBD is largely unregulated.
  • Suppliers’ claims are sometimes inaccurate or misleading.
  • A lack of medical studies demonstrate its risks and benefits.
  • Most physicians have not had formal training on prescribing it.
  • Ambiguity exists aroundwhat’s actually legal and how laws can change between states.

AN INDUSTRY RIPE FOR GROWTH

CBD is available in a variety of forms, from oils to pills to lollipops, in most states, including the more than 30 states that have legalized marijuana. The CBD market is exploding—it’s projected to exceed $22 billion by 2022, according to the “2019 U.S. Cannabis Market Report” from Brightfield Group. That’s up from $591 million in 2018. By comparison, the entire U.S. nutraceuticals industry is expected to reach about $100 billion by 2022, according to Business Wire.

As the market for CBD continues its ultra-rapid growth, how long before non-acute facilities start recommending it? Right now, it’s unclear what percentage of primary care physicians are talking about it or prescribing it to patients. A study showed that 90% of doctors were unprepared to prescribe medical marijuana because they didn’t learn about it in medical school. That same problem—lack of training and reliable information—may be responsible for doctors not recommending CBD.

What is clear is that there’s a lot of interest in the products. A study from March 2019 found that 40% of adults are interested in trying CBD, but they want easier access, more information and a physician’s recommendation before taking it.

“We are seeing many consumers looking to incorporate CBD into their wellness regimen,” says Mike Luce, cofounder of High Yield Insights, which conducted the survey, in a news release. “Consumers previously unfamiliar with CBD are rapidly showing interest. Now that the federal government is finally taking steps to clear up the hazy legal picture, people see CBD as an entry point to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.”

BUSINESS AND CLINICAL OPPORTUNITIES

CBD users say the products help treat a variety of medical issues, such as migraines, fibromyalgia and arthritis. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved its use for these ailments. To date, FDA has approved only the CBD medication Epidiolex® to treat two rare forms of childhood epilepsy.

“We support lifting federal barriers to research on cannabis and CBD and support access to these potential therapies, through state-regulated programs, for individuals when other treatment options have failed them,” the Epilepsy Foundation says. “If an individual and their healthcare team feel that the potential benefits of medical cannabis for uncontrolled epilepsy outweigh the risks, then the individual should have safe, legal access to medical cannabis.”

As barriers to access are removed and CBD increases in popularity, suppliers and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) have an opportunity to make CBD-based products and reliable information available to non-acute healthcare facilities. These facilities may be able to help their patients by understanding its medical uses and offering advice, and GPOs can help by providing CBD from reliable suppliers.

The FDA is currently considering authorizing the use of CBD in foods and dietary supplements. At the present time, it’s unlawful under FDA regulations and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) “to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into interstate commerce, or to market CBD or THC products as, or in, dietary supplements, regardless of whether the substances are hemp-derived,” according to the FDA. “Under the FD&C Act, it’s illegal to introduce drug ingredients like these into the food supply, or to market them as dietary supplements.”

What CBD Is and Isn’t

THC is the psychoactive component in marijuana that induces a high. CBD, on its own, isn’t psychoactive and doesn’t act on the brain like THC. CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis plants.

HEALTH BENEFITS MAY MAKE CBD A MAINSTREAM MEDICINE

Unlike THC in marijuana, CBD does not produce a high. According to the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

As physicians continue to learn about CBD and more studies document its potential uses, it could become more commonplace for doctors to recommend it to patients for certain conditions. CBD is already showing that it can benefit healthcare:

  • CBD has been linked to helping people with chronic pain, cancer-related nausea and vomiting, and MS-related spasticity.
  • Scientists think CDB affects the brain because of the way it interacts with the neurological pathways that regulate serotonin, the hormone that regulates anxiety, pain, nausea and appetite.
  • In a survey, 42% of CBD users stopped using other medications like Tylenol and Vicodin, and 80% found CBD products to be very or extremely effective.

In March 2019, CVS started selling CBD products such as creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions and salves in eight states. As consumers continue to use or consider using CBD, healthcare providers and those involved in the healthcare supply chain will need to close the gap in education and have reliable products and information available to help patients who could benefit from CBD.

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