For real-time reports on CBD and delta-8 THC, FDA may turn to Reddit

For real-time reports on CBD and delta-8 THC, FDA may turn to Reddit

Tasked with reining in an unwieldy gray market of popular but unregulated hemp-derived products, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed turning to … Reddit.

It’s a small part of a much larger plan, reports Marijuana Moment. Still, the agency said online forums and reviews could help regulators better understand the public health implications of cannabinoid use.

Of social media platforms, Reddit is one where people can speak relatively freely about cannabis.

The FDA released its data-collection plan October 16, explaining that the agency hopes to use the plan to quickly identify and respond to potentially dangerous products.

“To best protect the public health, FDA needs robust information about potential safety problems or adverse events associated with FDA-regulated products, including [cannabis-derived products],” the agency wrote in its Cannabis-Derived Products Data Acceleration Plan.

At the top of its list of products to investigate are CBD and “emerging cannabinoid markets” including delta-8-THC, delta-10 THC, cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and cannabigerol (CBG).

“While the emerging cannabinoid market is still nascent, it is a rapidly evolving digital-forward marketplace that is an emerging public health concern,” the FDA wrote. “The rise of Delta-8 THC products typifies many of the safety concerns FDA has with products that contain these other emerging cannabinoids: known or potential safety problems, lack of labeling information, potentially misleading product claims and product adulteration. We also note the rising rates of co-use of cannabis and [cannabis-derived products] together with nicotine products, which may pose unique public health concerns.”

The agency acknowledged that the market for hemp-derived products was moving faster than the FDA’s understanding of public health implications for new products. To solve this, they plan to partner with governments, researchers, and the hemp industry itself to collect the information needed to evaluate safety and detect products that could be dangerous.

The FDA said it hopes to gather “information about general patterns of product use and emerging trends […] in close to real time, so that the FDA can deploy its limited resources quickly and effectively.”

"FDA also needs information about general patterns of product use and emerging trends—and it needs this information in close to real time, so that the Agency can deploy its limited resources quickly and effectively."

— U.S. Food and Drug Administration, from the Cannabis-Derived Products Data Acceleration Plan

This requires a new approach, which is why the agency plans to use “diverse data sources and rigorous analytical methods” to help it respond to the rapidly-evolving market.

That’s where Reddit comes in, mentioned on a list of pilot projects the FDA is considering. They said consumer-generated reports could be rich sources of information to identify safety issues and adverse events. They hope to use sites like Reddit and consumer reviews to complement methods they’re already using, or identify issues they might miss using those traditional systems

This speaks to current gaps in the FDA’s system, including the ability to use information that’s online to help identify unsafe products, monitor the online marketplace, understand why and how people are using these products, and whether there are opportunities for improved education about cannabis products.

The FDA said it is already conducting research on toxicology, safety, and quality. More specific areas of research include:

  • Effects of CBD on the male reproductive system
  • How CBD is absorbed through skin and moves through the body
  • Impacts of CBD on neurological development
  • Risk of liver injury from CBD
  • The accuracy of ingredients listed on labels

Products the FDA looks at for safety and quality include:

  • medicines and drugs for human and animals
  • foods for human and animal
  • dietary supplements
  • cosmetics