The CBD Conversation

By Graham Garrison

September 17, 2019

6 things sales reps need to know about CBD products and their veterinary practice customers.

Chances are, your veterinary practice customers have had “the talk” with their clients about cannabidiol, or CBD. There’s a good chance too that they may have asked you about these products, and whether they have a place on their clinic’s shelves.

Indeed, CBD is appearing more frequently, not just 
in select products for humans, but also increasingly in supplements and treats for pets, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the recent report 
U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2019-2020.

“CBD-infused pet products are on pace to quickly go from niche to norm, spurred in part by the humanization trend and pet parents’ desire to see their fur babies live calm, comfortable lives,” said Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle.

Packaged Facts reported that U.S. retail sales of pet supplements in general rose by 5% in 2018, to $636 million, of which the veterinary channel captured 48%, or about $305 million. The pet specialty channel took in 30%. Packaged Facts attributed the surge in sales to an improved economy, greater spending across the pet industry and heightened consumer acceptance of CBD supplements, which are often advertised as a way to support an animal’s general health, alleviate pain or reduce anxiety.

Still, veterinarians have questions, and concerns.

Veterinary Advantage has pulled reports and resources from several industry sources to compile a list of things reps need to know when discussing CBD products with veterinary practices.

Not FDA-approved

Neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has approved CBD for use in pet products. Still, products are flooding the market while carefully advertised as supplements or treats, according to Packaged Facts.

Although the lack of regulatory oversight may seem odd, in the pet market it is more or less par for the course in the case of pet supplements and functional treats, which have long inhabited a regulatory gray area between drug and food, noted Sprinkle.

To help fill the void – and offer product makers and retailers some assurance their products will not suddenly be banned at the state or federal levels – the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) fields a quality seal audit program and keeps in close contact with the FDA. The NASC is at the forefront of the push to help create a safe space in the pet market for CBD. Companies operating in the CBD segment of the pet market must remain mindful of the FDA’s current position that CBD is not allowed as an ingredient in foods, human dietary supplements or animal foods – such products may be unlawful and risk stop-sale orders.

Learn more.

The Number of CBD Pet Supplements is Growing

Petfood Industry reported that as of July 2019, 209 hemp and hemp-derivative pet supplement products were available on the U.S. market, according to a NASC report submitted to the FDA. Some of these products have been available for a decade. Out of about 34 million times these supplements have been used, only six adverse events have been reported in dogs, one in cats, and three in horses, according to the council. NASC has formed an advisory committee to examine the use of hemp and CBD as a dog, cat and other pet supplement.

CBD May Be an Uncomfortable Topic for Your Customers

Fewer than half of U.S. veterinarians – 45.5 percent – felt comfortable discussing the topic with clients, according to a recent research paper published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science. When veterinarians did discuss it, CBD most often was raised as a potential treatment for pain management, anxiety and seizures in dogs. The findings were based on an anonymous online survey of 2,130 veterinarians.

Oddly, more than 6 in 10 veterinarians – 61.5 percent – felt comfortable discussing CBD with colleagues, according to the survey. The survey team concluded that there is a need for more research and education.

“Participants felt their state veterinary associations and veterinary boards did not provide sufficient guidance for them to practice within applicable laws,” the researchers said. “Recent graduates and those practicing in states with legalized recreational marijuana were more likely to agree that research regarding the use of CBD in dogs is needed.

“These same groups also felt that marijuana and CBD should not remain classified as Schedule I drugs. Most participants agreed that both marijuana and CBD products offer benefits for humans and expressed support for use of CBD products for animals.”

Learn more.

Clients Will Ask

Clients are going to provide cannabis to their pets whether veterinarians like it or not, said Stephen Cital, RVT, RLAT, SRA, VTS-LAM, who speaks nationally about cannabis. “Clients are going to ask about it,” Cital told Today’s Veterinary Business. “When a veterinarian shuts down the conversation because he or she doesn’t really know about it, that opens the pet up to being harmed inadvertently by the owner, who might give a product on their own that’s not well researched or has other ingredients that might be dangerous.”
“We have to do what keeps the clients happy, and clients are interested in this product,” said Cital.

Even though clients might be interested in cannabis, the veterinary profession walks a fine legal line. Casara Andre, DVM, cVMA, the owner of Veterinary Cannabis, an education and consulting company near Denver, does not recommend that any veterinarian or veterinary clinic be the direct source of a cannabis product, regardless of its status as hemp or marijuana.

Marijuana products (greater than 0.3% THC) can be purchased through a dispensary in states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Hemp products (less than 0.3% THC) might be available from online and brick-and-mortar retailers, depending on local laws.
“Many of the companies that understand the legal risk faced by veterinarians offer affiliate programs where the clinic can get a financial [inducement] when their clients purchase products,” Dr. Andre said. “This is a much safer way to handle the merging of cannabis and the veterinary industry right now. The DEA licenses of veterinarians should not be jeopardized just to add another product to the shelf.”

Learn more.

Confusion Over State vs. Federal Laws

According to AVMA’s website, marijuana is federally designated as a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States under the Controlled Substances Act – with the exception of “hemp” (Cannabis sativa L. with tetrahydrocannabinol <0.3% dry weight), a type of cannabis that was recently descheduled through passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. “How marijuana is handled under federal law contrasts with how it is handled under state law,” AVMA said. “More than half of U.S. states have passed legislation permitting medicinal use of marijuana in humans under strict guidelines. Additional states have passed laws permitting its recreational use. State laws legalizing use in people do not apply to cannabis use in animals.”

AVMA has provided its members a FAQ page where it covers the regulatory status of cannabis, cannabis-derived, and cannabis-related products.

Clarity Sought

The AVMA submitted comments to the FDA in July urging the agency to “provide regulatory clarity about expectations for the labeling, safety, and use of cannabis-derived and cannabis related products.” The association developed its comments with support from the AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents and its Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee. “The FDA should establish a clear and efficient process for approval of cannabis-derived and -related therapeutic products, and then conduct consistent enforcement against manufacturers and distributors who are noncompliant,” the AVMA said in its comments.

Learn more.

In: September Digital Edition 2019Topic: Trends