FDA cracks down on cannabis companies

The US Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on companies it says are making unsubstantiated claims that certain products made from marijuana can cure cancer.

This week, the agency responsible for policing the American food and drug market issued warning letters to four companies that are "illegally selling products online that claim to prevent, diagnose, treat, or cure cancer without evidence to support these outcomes."

It said in a statement, "The illegally sold products allegedly contain cannabidiol (CBD), a component of the marijuana plant that is not FDA approved in any drug product for any indication."

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the statement, "We don't let companies market products that deliberately prey on sick people with baseless claims that their substance can shrink or cure cancer and we're not going to look the other way on enforcing these principles when it comes to marijuana-containing products."

The companies that received the warning letters are required by law to respond within 15 working days, indicating what steps they have -- or will -- take to address the FDA's concerns.

"Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in legal action without further notice, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction," each of the four letters warned.

What products were targeted?

The FDA said the 25-plus products that are part of this crackdown include oil drops, capsules, syrups, teas, topical lotions and creams.

The four companies that received warning letters on Wednesday are Greenroads Health, Natural Alchemist, That's Natural! Marketing & Consulting and Stanley Brothers Social Enterprises LLC.

In a statement, That's Natural! said, "We are excited about the opportunity to address the FDA's Warning letter by complying to their warning letter and taking down the requested links and information, including that to peer-reviewed journal articles, on our site and social media."

Stanley Brothers said in a statement, "We take regulatory compliance very seriously. Our customers love to share their very personal stories about how our products helped improve their lives or those of their loved ones. ... We will work with the FDA to ensure that we better monitor how we share third-party testimonials."

"There are a growing number of effective therapies for many cancers," Gottlieb said. "When people are allowed to illegally market agents that deliver no established benefit they may steer patients away from products that have proven, anti-tumor effects that could extend lives."

When issuing warning letters about other "illegal" cancer treatments in April, the FDA said consumers should not use them "because they may be unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate and potentially life-saving cancer diagnosis or treatment," according to Douglas W. Stearn, director of the FDA's Office of Enforcement and Import Operations.

"We encourage people to remain vigilant whether online or in a store, and avoid purchasing products marketed to treat cancer without any proof they will work. Patients should consult a health care professional about proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer."