With the FDA approval over a year ago of Epidiolex® (cannabidiol) CV, the first prescription drug derived from the cannabis plant, the legitimacy of cannabinoids as medicine has arrived. But it’s also a serious marketing challenge. This past November, the FDA issued 15 warning letters to companies marketing cannabis-based products for medical purposes. The FDA also issued a revised consumer update warning against dubious marketing and the potential risks of unapproved forms of Cannabidiol (CBD).
That’s why marketers must treat cannabis and its derivatives, not like a trend, but like the treatments they are. To become the first FDA-approved formulation of CBD, Epidiolex had to go through years of development, stand up to the rigor of well-controlled Phase 3 clinical trials, and meet FDA standards of efficacy, safety, and manufacturing.
With that in mind, when we set out to market the product, we treated it like the FDA approved medication that it is. We published our clinical trial results in top tier peer-reviewed journals. We hired, trained, and deployed seasoned neurology and rare disease sales professionals. HCPs aren’t trained on cannabis or the endocannabinoid system in medical school. It’s frustrating for them that their patients and their caregivers are often more educated on cannabis-based products than they are. We created an educational platform to address this issue and make the neurologist the cannabinoid expert, putting them back in the driver’s seat of the therapeutic conversation.
Unregulated CBD Products Proliferate
Despite the gravity that comes with treating real medical conditions, many cannabis derived products go unregulated and may be inconsistent from one bottle to the next. In fact, assessments of CBD products sold today show that the majority are mislabeled and contaminated by pesticides, solvents, and metals. It’s our responsibility as marketers to make sure we treat cannabis for what it is—a source of more than 100 cannabinoids with the potential to be legitimate medications. And just like any other medical treatment, cannabis marketing should come with communications that are fair, balanced, and reflect the gravity of what’s at stake for the patients and families in search of effective solutions.
A medical revolution is absolutely happening in cannabis, but there also needs to be a marketing revolution as well. There’s too much at stake to make unsubstantiated claims or misinform and endanger consumers. When the dust settles on the cannabis industry, which side of history will you be on?