Ms Sanaa Akhtar completed her master degree in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Pretoria, under the supervision of Prof Vanessa Steenkamp. Her research aimed at determining the cannabinoid profile and regulatory compliance of non-scheduled cannabinoid-containing products in South Africa. The findings of the research will be presented as part of a symposium on cannabinoids at the 20th International Congress of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring & Clinical Toxicology which will take place in Prague, Czech Republic on September 18 - 21, 2022. The symposium will consist of three speakers; Prof Vanessa Steenkamp (South Africa), presenting Ms Akhtar’s work: ‘Non-compliance of cannabinoid containing oils poses a danger to medical users’; Prof Amitava Dasgupta (USA) ‘Dangers of synthetic cannabinoids’ and Prof Manuela Neuman (Canada) ‘Cannabis use in gastrointestinal disorders’.
As a synopsis, the study by Ms Akhtar set out to determine the cannabinoid profile and quality of six cannabinoid-containing oils (winter and summer batch) as well as compliance of these products to South African regulations. In order to accomplish this, a robust, validated liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometric method was developed for the analysis of four cannabinoid compounds; namely cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid-A (THCA). The immediate and outer container labels of the containers were scrutinized to determine label compliance.All six CBD oils failed to meet label claims for advertised CBD concentration, and the higher than indicated level of THC and CBN found in the samples was determined to be a violation of South African cannabis legislation. Additionally, absence of batch-to-batch conformity was noted for all samples.
Following the findings it was advised that standardisation of preparations or procedures to ensure quality control of cannabis products be implemented. The authors stated that ‘although this study was undertaken on products available in South Africa, recommendations are applicable to other regions as non-compliance is frequently reported and products may pose a danger to users even for medical purposes’. Regulating bodies are advised to impose regulations on the quality and content of active compounds in medicinal cannabis products to ensure the safety and minimize the risk of adverse events in users of the products for medicinal purposes.
As the legal use of cannabis based health and wellness products becomes widespread in South Africa, Akhtar’s study has shown that there is a clear need for improved production standards and monitoring. There is great potential in the industry, but the high level of non-compliance and variability in product quality, that Akhtar found, shows that there are also risks to clients and the credibility of the industry if these are not addressed.