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FDA Unveils Details of Cannabis Rescehduling Research, Including Social Media Monitoring

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a swathe of new details into the research it conducted into cannabis, ultimately leading it to recommend its rescheduling.

This week, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) published a report into its ‘Drug Safety Priorities’ for the last fiscal year.

CDER director Patrizia Cavazzoni explains that as part of the FDA’s ‘directive to explore whether marijuana should remain listed as Schedule 1 under the Controlled Substances Act’, the FDA conducted ‘an expansive review of numerous data sources’.

This review also assessed the ‘capabilities and usefulness’ of a number of new data sources for monitoring the safety of unapproved cannabis-derived products, including scraping social media sites for any mention of these substances.

In what the FDA describes as ‘proactive pharmacovigilance through social media monitoring and analysis’, the researchers are understood to have used social media and forum sites to ‘obtain an understanding of the social contexts and trends’ in regards to various substances, ‘particularly their use for nonmedical or recreational purposes’.

Alongside monthly ‘social media research reports’ into prescription opioids, the CDER ‘completed a detailed analysis of online and social media conversations’ around cannabis as one of ‘several’ research studies conducted to address its directive.

“This six-month study involved manually analyzing hundreds of posts on publicly available online/social media platforms to provide context directly from users regarding marijuana, including its effectiveness for several therapeutic purposes such as anorexia, anxiety, nausea, and pain; nonmedical purposes; benefits and negative effects, experiences with access. CDER’s final report submitted to DEA recommended down-scheduling to Schedule III.”

It comes amid growing pressure from across the political spectrum for the DEA to make its decision making process in regards to rescheduling, including a timeline, more transparent.

Last week, an Oregon Democratic congressman and one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Earl Blumenauer, similarly called for the DEA to lay out a timeline for rescheduling.

As Business of Cannabis reported last month, Congressman Steve Cohen called on the agency to ‘act expeditiously’ on the HHS’ recommendations.

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