What CBD oil means for the pharmaceutical industry

Posted in: General Information 16th January 2020

Herbal medicines have been used across many cultures to treat ailments for thousands of years. While scepticism remains around the efficacy of some herbal medicines, the benefits of others are becoming more widely recognised. In particular, there has been a huge demand for Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, with the UK market expected to be worth one billion pounds by 2025. Here, Adrian Pittock, marketing director of pharmacy consumables supplier Valley Northern, explains what the rise of CBD oil means for the pharmaceutical industry.

Cannabidiol is a natural compound found in the cannabis sativa plant and possesses the health benefits associated with CBD oil, including anti-inflammatory and pain relief. Although CBD oil has been scrutinised in the past, positive research has suggested that the oil is safe to consume and in November 2019, CBD oil became available on prescription from pharmacies.


Industry awareness

A survey by the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis estimates that six million people in the UK have used CBD oil. With this number expected to increase, it’s vital that pharmacies are aware of the issues surrounding CBD oil and the rules that must be followed when dispensing the remedy.

Firstly, pharmacists must ensure that the CBD-containing products they sell are genuine and follow legal guidelines. Depending on the application, CBD oil is available to buy in a variety of percentages and strengths. However, it’s been found that many products labelled as CBD oil do not contain the percentage of CBD as claimed on the bottle, which can cause problems for both the patient and the pharmacist.

For example, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) examined 30 CBD products on sale found that nearly two thirds contained less than 90 per cent of the declared CBD ingredient as labelled on the packaging. Additionally, some CBD containing products have been found to contain illegal chemicals. As a result of this, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has advised that pharmacists must check the legal status of CBD products, otherwise they risk losing their indemnity insurance.


What can pharmacies do?

As CBD oil can be used for purposes beyond its health benefits, pharmacists must perform necessary checks before supplying CBD containing products. Pharmacists must identify that the product they are supplying is a registered medicinal product, and whether it is a food supplement or controlled drug.

Pharmacists should also obtain the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis sativa plant, and inform the customer if there are trace amounts in the product. Checks must then be carried out to ensure the product will not affect customers taking other medicines or with pre-existing health conditions.

Furthermore, pharmacies must also ensure that, like any other pharmaceutical product they distribute, that the oil is packaged safely and securely. By using a supplier like Valley Northern who provides high quality, medical grade products that are suitable for herbal medicines such as CBD oil, pharmacists can ensure the products they distribute are consistently safe, reducing the chance of accidental and deliberate damage to the product.

While pharmacists should maintain quality and customer safety of all pharmaceutical products, great precaution should be taken for products such as CBD oil that come with stricter legal guidelines. With more people expected to use CBD oil in the upcoming years, the industry should ensure that guidelines are followed and only genuine regulated CBD containing products are prescribed to customers. If not, there could be detrimental consequences for pharmacies that do not follow the NPA’s advice.  

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