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We have today submitted a batch of 100 complaints against registrants of the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) for making questionable claims on their websites.
We have to thank our supporters for their sterling work in gathering the information we needed for these complaints. Some of you (you know who you are!) went above and beyond the call of duty to submit dozens to us. We are grateful for them all. This batch of 100 is just a selection of the hundreds you sent us, but will suffice for now.
Thanks also to those who submitted their own claims directly to the CNHC — they all help emphasise to the CNHC the extent of their problem and the extent of the concerns about them and their registrants.
What your efforts have demonstrated is that there are many websites of CNHC registrants that make claims that do not appear to be in compliance with the appropriate therapy descriptor, CNHC advertising guidance, the ASA's CAP Code, ASA/CAP Guidance and ASA adjudications.
The breadth of these questionable claims is truly staggering, with just about no CNHC 'discipline' left untouched. The Alexander Technique is a notable exception in this batch of complaints — at least there is some good evidence for it for some conditions and we found no evidence of the outrageous claims that were being made for other disciplines.
For example, many hypnotherapy registrants are claiming to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), when the ASA have made it clear (as a result of our complaint about the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine) that references can only be made to hypnotherapy helping the pain or discomfort of IBS, not to being able to help IBS itself.
It is vitally important never to lose sight of the fact that any kind of cancer can be healed in a split second, regardless of how far advanced it is or how many areas of the body are affected... For energetic healing it is unimportant where the cancer has manifested or how many parts of the body have been affected. Once the client is embracing the healing process fully, all cancer vanishes, for it no longer has any reason to exist within the person's physique...
Some amazing results have been achieved during the last few years whilst treating people with cancer. Scans often left oncologists amazed. Gradually I am specialising more and more in cancer treatments. Do realise: there is always hope, light, love and therefore possible healing.
What it can heal
Your physical health; all kinds of aches and pains such as;
more serious illness such as cancer
Skin Problems, Women's Health, Life-Long Weight Loss, Joint & Muscle Pains, Digestive Disorders/IBS, Hayfever Prevention, Tiredness/Energy Levels, Stress, Anxiety & Mental Health, Cancer Prevention & Support
Even yoga therapists:
Yoga Therapy requires no previous yoga experience and is beneficial for a great variety of conditions including RSI, hypertension, migraine, depression, cancer, diabetes, low back pain, IBS, MS, fribromyalgia , menopause, ME, sports injuries, asthma, and Parkinson’s disease.
Many other registrants' websites were making more subtle claims about cancer and frequently about the symptoms of cancer, but still very possibly misleading.
That last list is not untypical of many websites of many different disciplines. One 'Microsystems Acupuncturist' had an impressive list of 80 medical conditions her clinic could supposedly treat.
Others were making some very curious claims. One hypnotherapist:
For some years now I have used methods pioneered by Spanish surgeon, Dr Angel Escudero - who performs ALL of his operations WITHOUT anaesthetic. His patients are fully conscious throughout the surgery and feel no pain, and as no chemicals are used their bodies heal faster than patients who undergo traditional surgery. To date he has performed thousands of operations - many of which are major - and has no episodes of post-operative infection.
Breast Enlargement... (No, don't laugh - this really works!)... The earliest report I could find on the successful use of hypnosis to increase breast size dates from as far back as 1949, when it was used with 20 women aged from 20-35. An amazing 17 out of 20 women showed some increase in size, from about one to one and a half inches (2.5-3.7 centimetres) and 5 showed growth of about 2 inches (5 centimetres)..."Dr. Peter Mutke, who has helped pioneer breast enhancement using hypnosis, reports in his book' Selective Awareness' working with 25 women over 10 once a week sessions backed up by cassette tapes. By the end of the tenth week, 20 of the 25 women had experienced a measurable increase…Imagine the thrill of seeing your new self, hearing the compliments, noticing admiring looks and how wonderful it is to have a much higher sense of self-esteem. Why not enlarge your breasts naturally using hypnosis?..."
But you also found several practitioners using the title 'Dr' or the protected title 'physician', when they are not registered with the General Medical Council. Many of the claims being made may also breach consumer protection regulations.
The CNHC now need to process this batch of 100 complaints and no doubt that will take some time. However, they can be left in no doubt that they have a very serious problem on their hands and one they must promptly and decisively deal with.
This isn't just a couple of rogue registrants making claims that are slightly misleading: the problem is widespread and runs deep with some making very worrying claims indeed. The level of misinformation being presented to the public is shocking.
We have no doubt that many CNHC registrants are very aware of their responsibilities and want to comply with all the rules surrounding advertising, abide by the law and do so very happily. They are not the problem.
It's difficult to understand how any CNHC registrant can claim to be unaware of their responsibilities — the therapy descriptors have existed for over a year in some cases, and the ASA's CAP Code has been around for over 50 years. There is no excuse for being ignorant of the law.
But all this is happening on the CNHC's watch. It is up to them to ensure their registrants comply with the rules, taking swift and decisive action as and when necessary and monitoring its registrants to ensure they do not stray.
Fit for purpose?
But why is this so important?
Maybe a member of the public will just waste some money and an afternoon visiting a registrant for some treatment that doesn't do what was claimed. That is bad enough. However, given the claims for many serious medical conditions being made, the results of someone relying on what a registrant advertises or tells them could be far more serious — and, in the extreme, potentially fatal, particularly if they delay or forgo possibly urgently needed medical treatment, from a qualified medical practitioner.
It is now up to the CHNC — if it is ever wants to be considered a regulator that protects the public rather than its registrants — to take this opportunity to tackle the endemic problems with their registrants head on, ensure that all misleading (and indeed illegal) claims are removed and the registrants dealt with appropriately.
But of course, they must do much more than that if the public is to be protected in the future.
The CNHC control what training is considered appropriate for an aspirant registrant and they must also ensure that future registrants are clearly taught during their training just what they can and cannot treat — and that has to be based on the best scientific evidence available. Anything less is a dereliction of their duty. They promised this nearly four years ago, but even if they have taken take action, our complaints clearly demonstrate that it was wholly inadequate.
Standards? What standards?
The CNHC recently applied to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) to join their statutory Accredited Voluntary Register (AVR). With these revelations of the widespread and reckless claims being made by CNHC registrants, we suggest the PSA drop their application and have nothing further to do with them until the CNHC are able to fully demonstrate their ability to control their registrants and protect the public.
28 May 2013
We've had a great response to our campaign from many of you, with one person submitting more than 20 websites he found making claims that go against the CNHC's advertising guidance and the ASA's CAP Code.
But we'd like more — as many as you can give us — to show that the problem isn't confined to just a few practitioners.
So, either submit complaints yourself or send them to us:
- Find a few minutes over the weekend or the coming week to look up one or more CNHC registrants near you.
- Check their website for claims you think breach the CNHC advertising guidance, their therapy descriptors and the ASA's CAP Code and advice (essentially just about any mention of a medical condition).
- Fill in our very simple online form and hit 'Submit'.
That's it! We'll take care of the rest.
This is a great and simple way to support us and do your bit to curb misleading claims.
10 May 2013
In this issue:
- CNHC Campaign
- Reflexology advertising
- Hypnotherapy discipline descriptor update
- Marigold therapy update
In our last newsletter, we asked supporters to respond to the Professional Standards Authority's call for information on the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council's application to join their Accredited Voluntary Register.
We also asked our supporters to submit complaints to the CNHC to highlight that many of their registrants were making claims outside of their advertising guidance, etc.
This involved filling in a pdf and adding a scan of your signature, so we've decided to simplify the process: you can now send the details to us using our simple online form: CNHC Campaign.
We will collate the responses, check and submit them to the CNHC.
So please do your bit to help us and find claims that concern you. Submit as many as you like and we'll take care of the rest.
Warning: once you've started, you may find it addictive! Get going now by filling in the form.
You may remember that one of our first campaigns was about the claims made by reflexologists. We won the ASA 'master' complaints, of course, and the ASA have been working to persuade reflexologists to comply with the ASA's CAP Code and guidance.
CAP Compliance Team focuses on reflexology websites
Following the notice about reflexology advertising in our July 2012 news update, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Compliance team is now actively checking the websites of reflexologists to ensure the wording used meets the Advertising Codes. We strongly encourage all CNHC registered reflexologists to check CAP’s website here http://www.cap.org.uk/Advice-Training-on-the-rules/Advice-Online-Database/Therapies-Reflexology.aspx and to use the wording provided in CNHC’s reflexology descriptor which is available to download by logging into My CNHC or to view here: Complementary therapy descriptors.
Apart from saying what a reflexologist believes, all their therapy descriptor says about what they can claim is:
Reflexology can be a wonderfully relaxing experience where you can take time out from everyday pressures. The therapist’s expert touch will help you relax which can help improve mood, aid sleep and relieve tension. The result is an overall sense of wellbeing.
We're sure it can be relaxing, but there is no good evidence that it can do any more than that — and certainly none that would meet the ASA's requirements for substantiation. But while many are meeting their responsibilities, others are still making claims well outside their therapy descriptor and the ASA's guidance.
It's sadly all too easy to find reflexologists claiming:
Some of the conditions reflexology can help with are as follows:
Nervous system: headaches, migraines, insomnia, emotional stress, anxiety, panic attacks, depression.
Endocrine system with hormonal imbalances, menstrual problems, menopause, PMT, Sub fertility/infertility, prostate issues, thyroid imbalance.
Circulatory and respiratory systems with hypertension (high blood pressure), hypotension (low blood pressure), poor circulation, asthma, sinusitis, Hay fever, bronchitis, pneumonia.
This is why we need to bring what reflexologists — and other CNHC registrants — are claiming to the attention of the CNHC so that they realise the extent of the problem they have on their hands and take whatever steps are necessary to resolve it.
They are supposed to act in the public interest but cannot be doing that if they continue to allow misleading claims to be made by their registrants.
That is why our CNHC campaign is so important and we urge you to help us by doing what you can.
Hypnotherapy discipline descriptor update
After our ASA complaint about the claims being made by the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital in their Medical & Clinical Hypnosis leaflet, the ASA updated their guidance on hypnotherapy in line with the evidence and the CNHC have now done the same with their therapy descriptor. In the same newsletter, they say:
CNHC’s hypnotherapy discipline descriptor has been updated in consultation with the Hypnotherapy Profession Specific Board and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Copy Advice Team. The update means that CNHC registered hypnotherapists may now refer to the use of hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) using the wording suggested. This follows discussions with CNHC Board member Professor George Lewith about the evidence for the use of hypnosis with IBS.
Sage and timely advice, but it doesn't really tell the whole story about the claims for IBS the ASA will now allow.
In their adjudication, the ASA said:
We noted the quality of the studies varied significantly, but each had shown that hypnotherapy/hypnosis had some effect on helping patients to deal with the pain or discomfort from their conditions. However, we considered that the studies had not supported the claim that medical hypnosis could treat or cure gastrointestinal disorders. We therefore concluded that the claim "The following medical problems have been shown to benefit from the use of medical hypnosis: Gastrointestinal Disorders - Irritable Bowel Syndrome - Chronic Functional Abdominal Pain - Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease - Functional Dyspepsia" was misleading.
This clearly states that they will allow claims about hypnosis helping with the pain or discomfort from their conditions, but not claims about the actual conditions themselves. This is an important point advertisers will need to take on board if they are to stay on the right side of the CAP Code.
Marigold therapy update
You may also remember our other complaint about claims made in another RLHIM leaflet was for their marigold therapy for various foot problems. After providing evidence to substantiate their claims, the RLHIM simply withdrew the leaflet and the case was informally resolved.
As part of our ongoing investigations into marigold therapy, we submitted complaints about three websites to the MHRA after they confirmed to us that the marigold product was not not registered and not authorised by the MHRA. As they were complaints about the advertising claims made, the MHRA passed them to the ASA to deal with.
They were all informally resolved by the ASA: the first (Integrated Medical Centre Ltd) was published on 3 April and the other two (The Marigold Trust and Marigold Foot Care Ltd) were published on 24 April. The page on the first website that mentioned marigold therapy has been removed and the other two websites have been completely taken down.
We have a lot more to tell you about this, but that's all we can say at the moment!
25 April 2013
There is a regulator of 'complementary' practitioners that is supposed to be protecting the public. How well are they performing that duty?
Last July we were pleased to report on the sensible advice on advertising issued by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) to registrants after the ASA upheld our master complaints on reflexology.
This advice on top of their Guidance Sheet on advertising certainly gives the impression that the CNHC takes the issue of practitioners making "inappropriate or unsubstantiated claims" seriously and quite right too — especially given the CNHC has just applied for Accredited Voluntary Register status with the statutory Professional Standards Authority (PSA) — the new name of the CHRE.
When considering an application to become accredited, the PSA issues a 'Call for evidence':
Organisations applying for accreditation will have to demonstrate (by providing evidence) that they meet the standards set out by the Professional Standards Authority. The Authority will check, challenge and confirm the evidence provided by the applying organisation and will take account of feedback from patients, service users, the public, professional and representative organisations and others.
We would like to hear the experiences you have had with organisations applying for accreditation. Your contribution can be as lengthy or as brief as you like, but we will only be able to take it into account if it is supported by evidence rather than just being an expression of your opinion or based on hearsay (i.e. what someone else has told you).
We think the PSA need to be asking some probing questions of the CNHC and we will be submitting our own response. If you have information you think is relevant, we urge you to do so as well — but note the deadline is Wednesday, 3 April 2013.
But to help understand why we are concerned about the CNHC being granted AVR status, we need to briefly look at their history.
The birth and ongoing problems with the CNHC have been covered by Andy Lewis on The Quackometer and the problems they had with dealing with complaints about their registrants by Simon Perry:
In summary, as a result of Simon's complaints, the CNHC stated:
- CNHC will tell practitioners to remove claims they cannot justify.
- CNHC will conduct a review of evidence base for regulated therapies.
- CNHC will contact all registrants to instruct them not to make claims without justification.
- CNHC will contact complementary health course providers and authors to instruct them not to make claims without justification.
A responsible regulator would have already done all that, particularly one whose stated aim is to act in the public interest. But it's good they realise they had to do this to protect the public from being misled by their registrants.
Progress? What progress?
But what progress have they made?
The CNHC originally produced 'Therapy Descriptors' for each therapy they registered. These detailed what the therapist could do for you and what you could expect at a session. For example, their Therapy Descriptor for reflexology originaly stated:
How reflexology may help
Numerous disorders may benefit from reflexology depending on the specialism and expertise of your practitioner. Examples include pain, headaches, sinus problems, hormonal imbalances, back problems, stress and tension.
This clearly misleads the public into thinking that reflexology can help with those conditions. After lengthy discussions with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), these therapy descriptors had to be re-written and are now CAP Code friendly, with no mention of any medical condition anywhere. All they are left with are vague notions of 'well-being' and 'relaxation' and what a practitioner will do to you. Read them all here.
For example, the new reflexology descriptor now simply says:
Reflexology works on an individual basis and may alleviate and improve symptoms such as everyday stress and tension.
We have no doubt many of these therapies are relaxing, but there is little or no evidence they can do any more than that.
Any CNHC registrant keeping within these new descriptors is far less likely to be challenged and far less likely to mislead an unsuspecting public.
Making a difference
With these therapy descriptors in place for — in many cases — well over a year, have CNHC registrants removed misleading claims from their websites? Have the CNHC enforced their advertising rules (never mind what they promised Simon)?
No doubt some registrants, aware of their responsibilities and wanting to live up to them, will have changed their websites, but swathes of claims well outside the therapy descriptors remain across a wide range of therapies.
It is clear that, however well intentioned the CNHC may be, they are not being vigilant enough about what their registrants are claiming. If registrants are making claims that cannot be substantiated with good evidence, their customers cannot give their fully informed consent to treatment and that is a critical breach of their Code of Conduct, Performance and Ethics.
So, we need to make them aware of the extent of these claims and we want to see how they deal with registrants as a test of their professionalism and ability to properly protect the public.
We are therefore asking our supporters to submit complaints about questionable claims made by CNHC registrants.
Submitting a complaint
CNHC registrants can be found by choosing a particular therapy and searching for registrants in your area using their Search facility. But first, familiarise yourself with these CNHC documents:
- What types of complaints against registrants can we consider?
- Code of Conduct, Performance and Ethics
- Advertising Guidance
- Complaints Procedure
- Complaints Handling Process
Once you have found a registrant who you believe may be making claims about the therapy for which they are CNHC registered that you don't think can be properly substantiated or that go beyond the Therapy Descriptors or the ASA's CAP Code and guidance, you can submit a complaint. Please check carefully to ensure that it is a CNHC registrant who is making the claims and for a therapy for which they are registered.
Submitting the complaint can be done in several ways: using FishBarrel (which has recently been updated to include the CNHC's complaints form) or by filling the CNHC's complaints form manually. Because this form is a simple pdf, we have turned it into one that can be filled in electronically — download it here. Remember that you need to sign the form and that the CNHC are unlikely to accept any complaint not presented on their form.
- Keep it simple and to the point;
- Keep it impersonal and factual;
- Make sure you give the name of the registrant, his/her therapy and the claims for that therapy you are questioning.
If you use our electronic version of the form, you should be able to fill it in electronically in your pdf reader and add a scan of your signature. To do this on recent versions of Adobe Reader, click on 'Sign' at the top right of the Reader, then 'Place signature', then choose 'Use an image' to add your pre-scanned signature into the form in the correct place. Make sure your text is fully visible on the form, but if it is longer than the text box will allow, add it as an additional sheet (Word, text, etc) and list it on the form under Additional Information. Remember to keep a copy of everything you send. Ideally, take a snapshot of all web pages you are complaining about and monitor them for changes.
Please tell us when you submit a complaint and when it has been resolved to your satisfaction.
27 March 2013
In this issue:
- What Doctors Don't Tell You — OxyTech
- What Doctors Don't Tell You — Taking Stock
- Holland and Barrett — The final complaint?
For candida, bloated stomach, irritable bowel, leaky-gut, skin disorder, continuous constipation or diarrhoea and lack of oxygen and energy.
OxyTech regenerates your colon lining, so that it functions normally.
Can children take OxyTech? It is ideal for children at any age who are constipated or are taking antibiotics. If the child is too small to swallow capsules, the contents from a capsule can be spread on food, mixed in a smoothie, taken with honey etc.
If I get food poisoning? Take a large dose of OxyTech (say up to 10 capsules) as soon as possible.
My baby has colic? If you are breast feeding, you take OxyTech to regulate your body. If bottle feeding give baby OxyTech powder by teaspoon mixed with honey.
…marketing communications that claimed that a food could prevent, treat or cure human disease, and required reduction-of disease-risk claims and claims that referred to children’s development and health to be authorised by the European Commission. Because the ad made prohibited claims and we had not seen evidence that the reduction-of disease-risk claims and claims relating to children’s health were authorised by the European Commission, we concluded that it breached the Code.
Breaching the CAP Code on two counts, the ASA told Dulwich Health:
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Dulwich Health Ltd not to state or imply that their products could prevent, treat or cure human disease. We also told them not to make reduction-of disease-risk claims and claims that referred to children’s development and health unless authorised by the European Commission. We referred the matter to CAP's Compliance team.
In response to the ASA, Dulwich Health said:
Dulwich Health Ltd acknowledged receipt of our letter and said they noted our comments.
Just like the last time, they made no attempt to justify or substantiate the claims they made.
But this time, the ASA have referred the matter to their Compliance Team who will try to work with Dulwich Health to ensure future marketing complies with the CAP Code. We hope that Dulwich Health will cooperate and take their responsibilities under the CAP Code seriously to ensure all their marketing — including that on their website — complies.
It's worth emphasising that, in general, the same rules apply to all advertisers, regardless of the product or service they are marketing. There are, rightly, some additional rules for adverts about health products, but all advertisers have an obligation to ensure their adverts comply, whether they are advertising food supplements, double glazing, solar panels or car insurance.
Last October, we started to tell you about What Doctors Don't Tell You, and that we had submitted complaints about 26 adverts that had appeared in the first two issues. The following table shows our progress (the advertisers' names link to our news item about them and with the advertisers' website added):
|Advertiser||Website||Product/service||Issue/s||ASA outcome published|
|www.learnbuteyko.co.uk||www.learnbuteyko.co.uk||Buteyko breathing method||September||14 November 2012|
|Wholistic Research||www.wholisticresearch.com||Water filter||September
|14 November 2012|
|General Naturopathic Council||www.gncouncil.co.uk||Naturopathy, iridology||September||12 December 2012|
|General Naturopathic Council||www.gncouncil.co.uk||Naturopathy||October||12 December 2012|
|General Naturopathic Council||www.gncouncil.co.uk||Naturopathy||September||12 December 2012|
|General Naturopathic Council||www.gncouncil.co.uk||Naturopathy||October||12 December 2012|
|www.asthmacarekent.co.uk||www.asthmacarekent.co.uk||Buteyko breathing Method||October||12 December 2012|
|CoMra Therapy||www.comra-therapy.co.uk||CoMra device||September||12 December 2012|
|CoMra Therapy||www.comra-therapy.co.uk||CoMra device||October||12 December 2012|
|James White Drinks Ltd/Beet-it||www.beet-it.com||Beet-It Beetroot juice||October||19 December 2012|
|Medical Thermal Imaging Limited||www.breast-angels.com||Thermography service||September||09 January 2013|
|Abundance & Health Ltd||www.lyposphericnutrients.co.uk||Lypo-shperic supplement||September
|09 January 2013|
|Simply Vital||www.simplyvital.com||vitalCALM supplement||September||09 January 2013|
|Stetzer UK||www.stetzer.co.uk||Mains filter device||September||16 January 2013|
|Good Health Naturally||www.goodhealthnaturally.com||Serrapeptase supplement||September||16 January 2013|
|23 January 2013|
|BEP Technology Ltd||www.bioenergyproducts.co.uk||Earthing device||September
|06 February 2013|
|Dulwich Health Ltd||www.dulwichhealth.com||AlliTech supplement||September||06 February 2013|
|Harmony United Ltd||www.harmonyunited.com||Health device||September||13 February 2013|
|Harmony United Ltd||www.harmonyunited.com||Health device||October||13 February 2013|
|International Antiaging Systems Ltd||www.melatoninznse.com||Melatonin Zn Se||September||13 February 2013|
|Dulwich Health Ltd||www.dulwichhealth.com||OxyTech supplement||October||27 February 2013|
Key: Informally resolved case, Adjudication
These outcomes gives us:
With 54 CAP Code breaches in just nine adjudications on eleven adverts and complaints on another eleven adverts informally resolved, we now have a further four still to be resolved.
But we've already had to submit a complaint about one advert to the medicines regulator, the MHRA, because the advertiser didn't seem to recognise the authority and competence of the ASA.
Several of the other issues were about medical claims made for supplements — will they also have to be reported to the MHRA if they continue to make similar claims in the magazine or on their websites?
Holland and Barrett
This will hopefully be the last time the high street chain gets a mention here.
Despite previous assurances that all the prohibited point-of-sale advertising material for the Nelsons homeopathic products they sell had been removed from all their stores last summer, one of our supporters told us this was not the case. Last October, we submitted a third complaint to the medicines regulator, the MHRA, with a photo of prohibited material in their store in the Trafford Centre in Manchester. The complaint was fairly quickly resolved, but it has taken the MHRA nearly four months just to publish the details on their website.
In their notice, published on Monday, the MHRA said:
This was the third complaint around this issue, which was previously investigated and upheld in November 2011 and July 2012. Holland and Barrett had previously agreed to withdraw the materials from all stores and implement measures to try to ensure this would not happen again.
The MHRA upheld this complaint and warned the company about compliance. Holland and Barrett immediately ensured the material was withdrawn from the store subject to this complaint. They issued another recall to all Holland and Barrett stores this time requesting that all stores confirmed no Nelsons materials were present and introduced more robust procedures to ensure future compliance.
Our original complaint was about the booklets that were part of the display stands (and we have also been sent photos of other advertising cards). These booklets contained indications linked to the homeopathic products. Under the terms of the registration of these products, indications for what they might be used for are prohibited. We also originally complained about the labels on the display stand that said: 'First Aid', 'Aches & Pains', 'Skin, 'Colds & Infections', Women’s health' and 'Digestion'. We believed these too could be seen as prohibited indications, so we reminded the MHRA that these had also been part of our complaint. The MHRA told us:
We had forwarded your concerns regarding the display labels and H&B were not able to gain justification from Nelsons for their use, hence the decision to remove them.
Holland and Barrett issued yet another memo to all their stores on 30 November 2012 to ensure all prohibited advertising had been removed:
You must remove all Nelsons literature including any flip books that are attached to stands immediately; otherwise we will be facing enforcement action from the MHRA/IMB.
They included this diagram to illustrate what should be removed:
We sincerely hope this is the end of the matter and that no store — whether Holland and Barrett or otherwise — now misleads the public by displaying prohibited advertising material. But if you see any, please let us know.
27 February 2013
Can quantum physics help sell pseudo science? More ASA adjudications against adverts in What Doctors Don't Tell You
One of the hallmarks of pseudo science is its attempts to commandeer established words and phrases from science and misuse them for its own purposes, giving it a veneer of authority and respectability.
The prime example of this is the word 'quantum'. It refers to small, discrete steps such as the energy levels of an electron. In everyday use, however, it has come to mean the exact opposite: a quantum leap generally refers to some huge step in something or other.
But the word is certainly sciency-sounding and used by many purveyors of pseudo science, trying to give their product (there always is one) some legitimacy. The term 'quantum flapdoodle' was coined by Murray Gell-Mann in his book The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex to describe such usage.
In the September and October issues of What Doctors Don't Tell You, there were full-page adverts for a website www.what.getinharmony.com. Here you will find all sorts of products including a Home and Office Harmoniser that, for £847.00:
Removes all health damaging influences.
In case that's not sufficient, you might need the Harmony Omega II with 'enhanced abilities' for a more respectable £2,897.00.
This website even has its own description of quantum physics — one no quantum physicist would endorse — imploring us that "quantum fields are God" and:
This is what Quantum Physics is - the rediscovery of who you are and the herald of a new beginning for mankind as he re-awakens her divine presence here on Earth.
The two adverts in What Doctors Don't Tell You advertised this website.
In defence of their claims, the advertiser, Harmony United Ltd, said that their products:
…ensured that energy and information were sufficiently ordered so that the body and mind could utilise them. They said whether the human body utilised the higher quality order to remove disease was a matter for the human body. They pointed out that their technology had no influence on that.
No, we don't know either.
As the advertiser wasn't able to substantiate the claims, our complaint was upheld, with three breaches of the CAP Code for each ad.
N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine (melatonin to you and I) is an unlicensed medicine in the UK, but is freely available in some other countries as a food supplement. It's a neurohormone produced in the pineal gland that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles.
…work synergistically with melatonin to produce a much greater effect.
The ad proclaimed that the product could
Preserve Youthful Sleep Patterns
It is possible to be prescribed melatonin in the UK (and at least one form of of melatonin is licensed in the UK), but if it needs to be imported, this can only be done for an individual on prescription from a doctor, using an importer with an appropriate Wholesale Dealer's Licence. Members of the public may be able to import an unlicensed medicine for their own personal use, but it is clear that the advertising of unlicensed medicines in the UK is not permitted.
This ad claimed:
Melatonin Zn Se is freely available in Italy and is now available for the first time under article 1 of the treaty of Rome direct from Italy to you!
This is odd given that, according to the ASA, the advertiser is based in Belize in Central America, they have a PO Box on Sark in the Channel Islands, their domain name is registered in Panama and their parent company is also based in Panama, yet give a London contact phone number. The website mentioned in the ad, www.melatoninznse.com, is registered to an address on Sark and gives the same London telephone number.
Regardless, because it is an unlicensed medicine in the UK, it is prohibited to market it in the UK, regardless of where it comes from.
We challenged the ad and the ASA's adjudication on it is also published today.
Trying to defend the marketing of an unlicensed medicine, the advertiser said they believed:
…their ad was lawful, decent, honest and truthful, because they believed that individuals had the right to import medicinal products for their own use.
The ASA upheld our complaint, ruling it breached the CAP Code and told the advertiser not to market unlicensed medicines again.
As always, advertisers should note that adjudications don't just apply to the medium the ad was in, but to all marketing communications — claims are likely to be just as misleasing regardless of where they are published.
With 52 CAP Code breaches in eight adjudications on ten adverts and complaints on eleven adverts informally resolved, we now have a further five still to be resolved.
There have now been several resolved complaints about supplements making claims that mentioned medical conditions in breach of the CAP Code and these advertisers now have an ASA adjudication against them or have been informally resolved.
We have already reported an advertiser of a medical device to the medicines regulator (the MHRA) after they refused to acknowledge the ASA as a competent authority. If other advertisers don't withdraw or amend adverts to make them CAP Code compliant, will further complaints have to be made?
13 February 2013
- The Society of Homeopaths: failing to make the case for homeopathy
- The end of homeopathy on the NHS in Bristol?
- NHS Homeopathy: 20 years of decline
- The different faces of the Society of Homeopaths
- The growing pains of osteopaths
- Diluting misleading claims - ASA update
- NHS homeopathy in Scotland - on a shoogly peg
- Homeopathy on the NHS: at death's door
- Rubbing salts into the wounds of homeopathy
- On a downward spiral
- About The Nightingale Collaboration
- How to find out who owns a website
- Advertising Standards Authority
- How to submit a complaint to the ASA
- Finding deleted and changed webpages
- The decline of homeopathy on the NHS
- Making a complaint
- Landmark decisions for homeopaths
- WDDTY #2 - The Second Wave
- NHS Lanarkshire to end referrals to Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital