An open letter to the AVMA: It’s high time to consider revising stance on hemp

These veterinarians propose the adoption of parameters to gauge the safety and efficacy of commercial hemp products.

Editor’s note: The authors sent us this letter—which they say they originally submitted to the editors of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association on June 29 but which was reportedly rejected for publication—in hopes that dvm360 would make their message public. It was written in response to the AVMA document “Cannabis: What veterinarians need to know,” released in January of this year. Note that individual readers are advised to be familiar with their state laws before recommending or prescribing the products discussed below in their own veterinary practices.

Dear AVMA editorial board:

We are writing to offer several suggestions regarding the current AVMA stance on treating and recommending hemp products for veterinary patients.

First, we fully understand and support the need for safety and efficacy data around hemp treatment. We also share the AVMA’s concern that there are companies marketing products that are untested and lack pharmacokinetic studies which make safe dosing intervals and dosage impossible and potentially dangerous.

Safety and doing no harm is the primary directive of all veterinarians. We would encourage the AVMA to review recent studies performed at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine and update their position and modify the statement of January 2018 to reflect that there are safe and efficacious products (Ellevet Sciences) that have the necessary evidence for veterinarians to begin guiding their clients regarding the use of hemp-based nutraceuticals for pain.

We understand that defining guidelines for a new class of nutraceuticals is very challenging; consequently, we would like to suggest parameters that might serve as a starting point for further discussions regarding hemp products and their legality primarily coming from the agricultural hemp bill recently modified and passed by Congress:

  1. Products must first meet the legal qualifications for hemp including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) concentration less than 0.3 percent of the final product. Hemp must be grown under the Farm Act with supporting documentation.
  2. A certificate of analysis must be available for each batch and the product must be tested for major cannabinoid content, pesticides, heavy metals, mold and bacteria.
  3. The company must have tested the product for the indication at an accredited university or third-party contract laboratory under the direction of a veterinarian with high-quality third-party results regarding clinical efficacy as well as short- and longer-term pharmacokinetics and safety data to support its dosing recommendations.

With these guidelines, veterinarians will have more information to determine what is best for their patients. Veterinary medicine is in the infancy and forefront of hemp research and we hope our suggestions will stimulate discussion and creation of guidelines, so we can help more patients.

Thank you.

—Fred Metzger, DVM, MRCVS, DABVP
—Joe Wakshlag, DVM, PhD, DACVN, DACVSM

Note: According to Ellevet, neither Dr. Metzger nor Dr. Wakshlag receives any direct compensation from the company. Ellevet does fund the research conducted by Dr. Wakshlag at Cornell University.

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