Record of Proceedings for the Science Advisory Committee on Health Products Containing Cannabis (SAC-HPCC) – Subcommittee on Animal Health: January 19, 2021
Session - January 19, 2021, 2:30-5pm Eastern time
Welcome and opening remarks
The Executive Secretary of the Committee, Director General of the Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate (PPIAD), welcomed members of the Subcommittee on animal health, namely Drs. Nigel Caulkett, Daniel Hurnik and Karol Ann Mathews, and Health Canada participants from the PPIAD and Veterinary Drugs Directorate (VDD). He indicated that the focus of this meeting would be on the current state of the evidence for safety and efficacy of cannabis when used for therapeutic purposes in animals.
Roundtable and introductions
The Committee Co-Chair, Paula Brown, provided an overview of the meeting agenda and introduced participants. The Co-Chair also sought member updates to declarations of affiliations and interests ahead of the meeting; there were none received that restricted members' participation.
Current state of evidence for use in animals
Members received a presentation on the current state of evidence for use in animals from Dr. Wayne McDonell, Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College.
Dr. McDonell presented the results of his literature search and review on the safety and efficacy of cannabis use in animals, including other important elements raised by the review.
The scope of the literature search and its limitations were explained. The overview of the evidence relevant to the Subcommittee's mandate was presented along the following themes:
- Accidental ingestion or overdose of cannabis products in animals; acute and chronic toxicity
- Cannabinoid receptors and proof of concept investigations
- Veterinary and animal owner surveys
- Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics
- Clinical efficacy and safety of CBD for veterinary conditions
- Use of cannabis products in food animals and issues pertaining to food safety
- Public health and consumer protection
Following the presentation, the Subcommittee members discussed the status of scientific knowledge in this space, and what is generally known and accepted about cannabis use in animals in particular pertaining to the potential use of CBD alone and CBD in combination with THC. The Subcommittee members supported further discussion on specific topics, such as food-producing animals and food safety.
Discussion period: Current state of evidence for use in animals
The goal of this agenda item was to provide Subcommittee members time to discuss more in depth the current state of evidence in light of the SAC-HPCC mandate.
To guide the discussion, the Committee Co-Chair first reviewed the SAC-HPCC mandate and provided initial scoping considerations.
Initially, as part of setting the current context, there was some discussion on the federal versus provincial and territorial oversight roles regarding what veterinarians can and cannot do with respect to the use of cannabis in animals.
Members then discussed how to approach the mandate objectives included in the SAC-HPCC terms of reference. There was general agreement that the Subcommittee would focus on the state and level of evidence regarding the safety, efficacy and quality of cannabis, including specific phytocannabinoids such as CBD and THC, when used for therapeutic purposes. Following that, members would discuss factors to consider for dosage and conditions of use would be assessed, and then suitability of use without practitioner oversight. Finally, the Subcommittee would consider the priorities of the research and medical community.
Members identified some initial considerations regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis for therapeutic purposes in animals:
- The safety of specific phytocannabinoids, such as CBD,
- Interaction of cannabis with other drugs,
- Potential dosages and indications,
- Supporting safe use through appropriately labelled directions for use and warnings.
Discussion of next steps for the Subcommittee
The Co-Chair indicated that she will work with the Secretariat and representatives from the VDD, to develop a work plan based on the day's discussion. The Co-Chair also mentioned that based on the discussion regarding food safety, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) should be invited to a future meeting of the Subcommittee to discuss the current situation for cannabis and feeds.
The Director General of the VDD and the Co-Chair thanked Dr. McDonell for his participation in this meeting and the Subcommittee members for their ongoing engagement.
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