Layer 1

Xrayser: CBD may turn out to be the greatest over-promise of our time

"There are still some products clinging onto pharmacy shelves by being profitable and inoffensive"

Xrayser ponders whether CBD remedies have a place in modern pharmacy

Every pharmacist has their favourite remedies they instinctively reach for, and I’m no exception. Back in the 1980s, my particular favourites included an emollient for any dodgy looking patch of skin that eluded easy diagnosis called Pink Healing Ointment, as well as the ammonia solution Sal Volatile, which was taken with water as a palliative for anxiety and exam nerves. Then there was Thomas’s Chest & Lung Mixture, which tasted so foul that it must've done you good and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a BBC Victorian drama series.

As the years went on, and the killjoy bureaucrats demanded proof of effectiveness, these seemingly harmless panaceas fell out of favour and were discounted by younger, evidence-based pharmacists arriving in the workplace. Yet somehow, there are still some products that quietly sit upon the shelves, managing to cling on and justify their place by being both profitable and inoffensive.

Products such as herbal remedies, homeopathic treatments, and probably 90% of the vitamins, minerals and other food supplements bought by desperate patients who shun the side-effects of modern allopathic medicine in favour of “safe natural remedies”. And thus, in much a similar way over the last ten years, the problem for pharmacy has been where to put cannabidiol (CBD) products.

I can understand why people instinctively feel that CBD products must be an untapped trove of beneficial goodness. Such natural plant derived treatments, with their faint allusion to the anti-establishment pot-smoking rebellion from the sixties, represent for some the very essence of liberation from the man-made drugs foisted upon us by Big Pharma. They embody the era of peace and truth at a time when conspiracy theories encourage fear of man-made diseases and their complimentary man-made vaccines, even though it is CBD that may yet turn out to be the greatest over-promise of recent times.

Internet claims for CBD oil range from the subtle and subjective improvement in wellness to wild assertions that recall the snake-oil advertisements of the 19th century. Cures for alcoholism, Alzheimer’s, autism symptoms, cancer, colitis, depression, diabetes, encephalopathy, lupus, Lyme disease, schizophrenia…the list goes on and on, confused even further by repeated media reports of desperately ill children being denied treatment with CBD for severe neurological diseases.

Only four manufacturers of CBD products are currently on an advisory list by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). It will be a blow for the companies that have invested huge sums of money into their products that don’t make it onto the FSA’s final list, expected in June, and the pharmacies that have purchased large stocks of not inexpensive remedies they may soon be unable to sell, but it may be the right thing for modern medicine.

30 years as a pharmacist has shown me how drug treatments swing in and out of fashion. From the promise in the 1990s that hormone replacement therapy would prevent osteoporosis and heart disease as well as menopause symptoms, the 21st century aspirin-statin-antihypertensive polypill that assured an end to cardiovascular disease, to the latest promises of CBD oil – it all seems too good to be true. And we know what they say about something that seems too good to be true.

A long-running C+D contributor, the identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but his irreverent views are known by all. Tweet him @Xrayser


C+D Xrayser, Community pharmacist


TC PA, Community pharmacist

Never ceases to amaze me how much people are willing to pay for this rubbish. No doubt, THC has a benefit but this stuff tries to pass off as having the benefits of medicinal cannabis with none of the drawbacks.

However, some people genuinely think it helps. I've had several patients who have reduced/stopped codeine based painkillers they had been taking long term and replaced with CBD oil. More than likely this is a placebo effect but who are we to ruin it for them?

PAUL JONES, Community pharmacist

I have tried 3 differing CBD  products up to 30mg for varying ailments and I would say they are totally ineffective: 100mg appears to be potentially effective but who can afford that dose on a regular basis? It may be that a  % of THC may be needed: are any companies investigating this?

Over the years, I have tried several alternative remedies, for which the manufacturers can produce seemingly quite convincing scientific evidence for reputable sources, but to no avail: and the passage of time seems to make the problem disappear.

On a different note, I have enjoyed your amusing articles for years, Xrayser, but have noticed that unsurprisingly, you find it harder to be funny about pharmacy Perhaps it is time to hang up the white coat or have you regenerated like Dr Who?




C+D Xrayser, Community pharmacist

Hi Paul - no, I haven't regererated since 2009, but it has been a very tough 18 months and taking me a little while to get into the swing of things again!

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist


Job of the week

Support Pharmacist
Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Heartl
up to £47,500 dependent on hours (30-40 hours flexible)