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CVS to sell CBD products in 800 stores in 8 states

CVS to sell CBD-infused products

CVS Pharmacy announced Wednesday that it will begin selling hemp-derived CBD products in eight states. The national drug store chain will be marketing the topical cannabidiol products, such as creams, sprays and roll-ons, as “an alternative source of relief,” CVS said in a statement to NBC News. CVS will also be partnering with a company to test and verify the quality of the CBD topicals sold in its drug stores.

“We are carrying hemp-derived CBD products in select states to help meet consumer demand for alternative care options,” said CVS Health Spokesperson, Mike DeAngelis.

The items will be sold in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee.

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CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from the hemp plant, a close relative to another member of the cannabis family, marijuana. Both plants contain abundant types of cannabinoids, but marijuana is high in the psychoactive chemical THC, while hemp is rich in CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has generated quite a buzz for its potential medicinal benefits.

CBD has been touted as a treatment for a wide range of conditions — including anxiety, pain, inflammation and even cancer — but little reliable research has been done on CBD’s effects on humans, experts say. The only FDA-approved CBD oil is Epidiolex, an oral solution prescribed for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy.

“Societies have jumped far far ahead of science,” said Dr. Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center and director of Columbia’s Marijuana Research Laboratory. “So it’s showing up in lotions and pretty much any form of product one can use. There’s a lot of different ways one could use CBD, but the ways we have studied CBD is much more limited.”

CVS has at least 9,800 stores nationwide and will soon roll out the CBD products in over 800 stores in the eight states. The health care chain says that effectiveness claims will vary from product-to-product, but that the company does not plan to market any of the items as a ‘cure-all’ product.

“We’re going to walk slowly, but this is something we think our customers will be looking for,” CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said in an interview Wednesday with CNBC’s Jim Cramer.

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The company noted that they would not be selling any CBD-based supplements or food additives. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, it is illegal to introduce drug ingredients like CBD into the food supply or to market them as dietary supplements.

“Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement in December.

For this reason, CVS will market the creams and salves as over-the-counter medicinal products, merchandised in a dedicated display.

There have been more dangerous situations where people turn down effective medications to use unproven products, like CBD.

To assure accurate labeling and safety for customers, CVS has partnered with Eurofins, a third party laboratory, to test all CBD topicals for THC, CBD content, and other contaminants, DeAngelis said in the statement to NBC News.

“We are working only with CBD product manufacturers that are complying with applicable laws and that meet CVS’s high standards for quality. Only products passing these independent tests are offered for sale in our stores,” the statement said.

Some experts believe the move by CVS to sell CBD over-the-counter may provide more questions than answers, at least initially.

“It’s a way to reduce the stigma for a product that really doesn’t deserve to be stigmatized,” said nutritionist and cannabis practitioner Brooke Alpert. “On the other hand, because of the lack of regulation it raises questions like: do people really know what they’re getting; can other brands get away with selling inferior products; and where can people find more information about these products?”

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Another big concern for experts is that patients will avoid proven medications in favor of CBD.

“There have been more dangerous situations where people turn down effective medications to use unproven products, like CBD,” said Haney.

Shamard Charles, M.D.

Dr. Shamard Charles is a physician-journalist for NBC News and Today, reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.

CVS is going to sell CBD products over-the-counter in 800 stores in 8 states, CVS Health CEO Larry Melo said.

CVS And Walgreens Bet On Cannabis, Testing The Market And Responding To Consumer Demand For CBD

Cannabidiol, or CBD, seems to be everywhere these days. Trendy lunch spots are drizzling CBD oil on salads, bartenders and mixologists are adding it to cocktails, juice bars are adding it to their smoothies alongside wheatgrass and ginger, and coffee shops are adding it to their lattes. Even Bon Appetit is adding it to their arsenal of ingredients, promoting recipes like CBD Caramel Sauce, which they suggest serving “over ice cream, stirred into yogurt, or drizzled over a brownie or slice of pound cake.”

That’s a lot of hype for a compound that is one of more than a hundred cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and for one that causes absolutely no psychoactive effects. After all, for decades, psychoactive effects have been what many cannabis users have sought, leading to strains that had been specifically bred to diminish the amount of naturally occurring CBD.

Product on display (Leef Organics) at the ECO Cannabis Oakland Grand Opening Media Event at ECO . [+] Cannabis on March 28, 2019 in Oakland, California. Photo: imageSPACE for ECO Cannabis/MediaPunch /IPX

Many people, though, have found CBD to be helpful in providing relief for a wide range of symptoms, including chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, gut disorders, and neurological conditions. And last January, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution, as a treatment for seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

While this application has been approved for a very specific and limited use, further research and clinical trials may lead to approval for other drugs and for other uses. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress removed hemp from the drug schedules outlined in the Controlled Substances Act, legalizing it under federal law. But even though this made CBD derived from hemp legal, it was still subject to FDA regulations when used in applications under the FDA’s purview. What this means, most notably, is that selling CBD as a food additive or dietary supplement gets tricky.

So how do companies respond to market demands while also not getting themselves crosswise with federal regulators?

We saw one solution recently, as the two biggest pharmacy chains in the United States decided that CBD was worth exploring. Both CVS and Walgreens announced – within days of each other – that they would begin selling hemp-derived CBD products in 2,300 stores between the two nationwide chains. While you won’t find the trendy CBD products listed above at these drugstores, their shelves will soon contain a variety of topical applications like creams, lotions, salves, patches, and sprays.

Let’s be clear here: this is a big step and a major development for the cannabis industry. The fact that nationally recognized brands are putting their weight behind cannabis-tangential products is almost certainly a harbinger of things to come – even if the complex reality of FDA regulations forces the drugstore chains to limit their CBD product lines to topical applications for practical and legal reasons.

In a December 20, 2018 statement after the signing of the Farm Bill, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb asserted as much, saying “It’s unlawful under the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act] to introduce food or 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. This is because both CBD and THC are active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs and were the subject of substantial clinical investigations before they were marketed as foods or dietary supplements.”

This means that before we see these chains really double down on the new cannabis landscape, a new regulatory framework will have to be developed and implemented, providing guidance for what they can – and, importantly, what they can’t – do. We may still be a long way off from that framework coming into place, but as with other developments, it is encouraging to see a willingness to explore and take action where possible.

What we do know is that the demand is there. Until the regulations catch up, retailers looking to test the market may find lotions and salves to be a safer bet. And if consumers meet or exceed retailers’ projections, then we will almost certainly see other retailers follow suit.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act’s drug schedules, legalizing hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD). With consumer demand for CBD on the rise, CVS and Walgreens both recently announced that topical applications containing CBD would soon be on their shelves.