By Damien Bove – ADACT MEDICAL

I am writing this article from the position of somebody that has worked in community pharmacy, admittedly not for a few years, circa the year 2000 to be exact. When I graduated from Bradford School of Pharmacy in 2000 I went to work in the pharmaceutical industry, this followed 7 years as a pharmaceutical technician working on the front line of community pharmacy.

As a respected healthcare provider and the first line of medical defence in the community, the burden is put upon Pharmacy to only stock products that they can stand behind, that is ethical, effective and of good providence, on top of that, you have to earn a living directly from the goods that you sell. It can often be a difficult path to navigate. However, I strongly believe, and I hope that after reading this so will you, that CBD meets this criterion, if you purchase sensibly.

So what is CBD and is it legal?

CBD or cannabidiol is all over the popular press and all over the retail market these days, but what exactly is it? And if it’s from marijuana or cannabis how can it be legal? Well for a start it does not come from marijuana or cannabis, it comes from industrial hemp. Hemp is the plant that can be grown legally in most countries in the world, including the UK. It’s a licensed activity as we have to keep low levels of THC and CBN (these are the psychoactive components of cannabis and are illegal), CBD is on the same metabolic pathway as THC so plants that are high in CBD are conversely low in THC. Now CBD is the psycho-protective component and interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the Central and peripheral nervous system and in the immune system, via which it delivers its beneficial effects. So when we are selecting products to sell you need to be provided with the documentation and test certificates that show there is less than 1mg of THC or CBN in the final product. (more on this below)

As pharmacists you will be aware of the regulations, a product such as CBD is clearly medical by function, and you would expect that it needs a medical licence to be sold, however the MHRA have publicly stated that as long as companies don’t make medical claims for the products they can be sold as food supplements (more on this is a little while). So whilst the beneficial effects of CBD are well publicised we have to be careful not to make medical claims.

What does CBD do?

Well, this is a strange thing, everybody who uses CBD gets a very personal response to it, however, it’s fair to say that it brings balance to the central nervous and the immune systems. Let me clarify, for people who have stress and anxiety CBD has been shown to lessen the symptoms of these two important conditions and help with the sleep disturbance that is well known to be associated with them. For those with painful conditions in some patients it’s been shown to reduce pain and inflammation. As for the immune system, it’s been demonstrated to help with overactive immune responses such as eczema and allergy it has been shown to calm down these conditions, and also help boost the immune system to fight of other conditions, and has been shown to reduce the side effects from Chemotherapy (I can vouch for this from personal experience).

These are the common uses for CBD: Pain, insomnia, better focus, muscle recovery, skin clarification, anti-inflammatory effects, etc

How do I know which to stock?

Not all CBD is created equal, there is a lot of misconception that all CBD is the same but this is simply not the case, the truth is that there are many different ways of preparing CBD extracts and creating final products. I will focus on oral drops in this article, but there are other products available such as edibles, creams, capsules, tablets, drinks, vapes, the list goes on.

What is the market for these products?

CBD is probably one of the fastest growing product segments in recent years, the products are highly effective, and there is good profit margin to be made, CBD infused products are all over the market and the press. They are being sold through a vast number of outlets, but fraud is rife in the market and the consumer knows this, pharmacies are well placed to sell their products as they are trusted professionals. Provided you do the research you can expect to sell a good quality product to a market eager to have a product they feel they can trust.

I can think of at least four ways to make CBD oral drops:

∙ Hemp Juice (made from squeezing juice from a hemp plant) – can be quite bitter to taste and have low levels of CBD and other cannabinoids, although some have very high levels of cannabinoids, so don’t assume they are all low.

∙ Hemp Seed Oil (made from squeezing oil from the seeds) again can be quite bitter and the levels of cannabinoids can vary dramatically from supplier to supplier.

∙ Reconstituted extracts mixed in hemp oil, cannabinoids are extracted industry and then reconstituted in hemp oil, again taste can be an issue but cannabinoid levels are much higher and can be consistent.

∙ Reconstituted extracts mixed in other oils such as MCT, cannabinoids are extracted industry and then reconstituted in MCT oils, taste is much improved and cannabinoid levels are much higher and can be consistent.

Getting to the bottom of CBD levels from the labelling can be quite a challenge, this is where as pharmacists you are at an advantage, you are well placed to decipher the labels and get the crux of the issue. Common things to look out for are:

∙ Oil weight is given not CBD, eg 1000mg CBD oil drops in a 10ml bottle when you read the ingredients the product is made of 1000mg of hemp oil, which probably contains between 2 and 15% CBD so the total CBD content is actually 20-150mg not 1000mg advertised.

∙ Products standardised to 30ml, again you can see two products that are both 1000mg, but one is 30ml so comparatively much cheaper, when you look one is 10% CBD so contains 1000mg (and is labels 1000mg/10ml) and one is 1000mg/30ml so the liquid itself is on 3.3% CBD

∙ Products just lie, they don’t give actual CBD content – this is very common unfortunate, so you need to demand to see test certificates, and you should validate them with the supplier.


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