Challenging misleading healthcare claims

WDDTY #7 - Going to Ground?

Two further ASA adjudications on adverts in What Doctors Don't Tell You this week…

earthingEarthing

Quoting that ever-reliable source of medical information, the Daily Mail, this advertiser in the first two issues of What Doctors Don't Tell You announced that many of us don't get enough sleep.

The solution? Go to ground. Earth yourself:

The Earth then shares it antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti aging electrons from its inexhaustible store. [sic]

The Earth also stores natural rhythms- day/night, and reconnection supports sleep.

The products are mats that you lie/sit/work on that are conductive and connect to the earth on a mains socket.

But if you think this might not be supported by the evidence, you needn't worry.

Do clinical studies support the claims made for Earthing?

Robust studies show significant improvements in sleep, vitality, rebalancing of key hormones (cortisol- the stress hormone, influences thyroid hormone), improvements in circulation and reductions in blood pressure.

Extensive case studies on reduction of inflammation (associated with any -itis medical condition such as arthr-itis) were accompanied by reduced sensation of pain.

Any -itis medical condition? Wow.

We thought the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) might like to update their guidance to include these 'robust studies'. 

We challenged the claims:

Sleep better tonight- sleep earthed

Earthing Institute Studies show:

100% of people woke feeling rested

85% of people fell asleep faster

93% experienced better sleep

78% experienced better well being

82% reported reduced muscle stiffness/pain

Sokal study reports benefits in blood sugar regulation, thyroid hormones, osteoporosis metabolic.

Sinatra study shows blood thickness reductions and circulation benefits.

Poor sleep can have a serious knock-on effect on your health

Robust studies show significant improvements in sleep, vitality, rebalancing of key hormones (cortisol- the stress hormone, influences thyroid hormone), improvements in circulation and reductions in blood pressure…Extensive case studies on reduction of inflammation (associated with -itis medical condition such as arthr-itis) were accompanied by reduced sensation of pain.

We also challenged whether the use of the title Dr in the name Dr John Kelsey PhD, ND was misleading as we understood that Kelsey did not hold a general medical qualification.

The ASA upheld our complaints and their adjudication is published today.

The advertiser, BEP Technology, trading as Original Earthing (BEP), claimed that they were not making medical claims but that they were promoting 'optimal health':

They said conventional medicine was concerned with [treating disease] and explained that natural resources and elements in the world were exempt from such considerations because they dealt only with optimising health.

 However, they still provided the ASA with studies, articles and case studies in support of their claims.

The advertiser claimed that:

…the readership of WDDTY were a specific group with a demonstrated interest in health and who were naturally sceptical with a good, discriminatory awareness and who were therefore unlikely to be misled by any claims in the ad.

Ground breaking

The ASA considered that many of the claims being made for the efficacy of earthing would be 'ground breaking'! As such, they would require a high level of substantiation:

…such as a body of scientific research including clinical trials conducted on people

Since the advertiser had not supplied this, the ASA ruled that the claims were misleading and that some claims were for medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought and that:

…advice, diagnosis and treatment for them should only be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. Because we understood that was not the case in this instance, we concluded that those claims breached the Code as they could discourage consumers from seeking essential treatment for those conditions.

The ASA were not at all impressed with the advertiser's argument that Kelsey's PhD in Process Engineering entitled him to use the title Dr in the context of an ad making medical claims and ruled it misleading.

This ad breached the CAP Code on five counts.

For further information on earthing and how it is being marketed, read Eric Hall's article on Skeptoid: More Mercola Misinformation: Grounding In Reverse.

AlliTechWhen Antibiotics don't Work

Yet another supplement.

This is the first of three adverts in What Doctors Don't Tell You by Dulwich Health Ltd we complained to the ASA about. This one was for a product called AlliTech that stated that it was:

…nature's powerful anti-biotic, anti-parasites, anti-viral, anti-fungal and immune booster with no side-effects reported during over 10 years of use.

The ad made many claims for its effectiveness for several conditions including pneumonia, upper respiratory infections, Lyme disease, kennel cough and, of course, dysentery in apes. It also claimed that 52 patients at University Hospital [sic], London fully recovered from long term MRSA after taking allicin, one of the ingredients of AlliTech. And it has saved thousands of Horse Chestnut trees from dying from Pseudomonas Syringoefungus [sic].

Impressive claims for a product derived from garlic.

We challenged the claims made; whether doctors did indeed believe that parasites were the most under-diagnosed and under-appreciated health threat that was linked to Alzhiemer's, dementia, Parkinson's and MS; whether the testimonials were genuine and whether the ad made claims for an unlicensed product.

The ASA's adjudication is also published today, upheld on all four issues.

The advertiser acknowledged receipt of the ASA's letter and said they noted their comments.

They made no attempt to justify or substantiate the claims they made, so the ASA ruled that they had breached the CAP Code on five counts and told them not to repeat the ad, not to make efficacy claims unless they could be substantiated and not to make medicinal claims for an unlicensed product.

The Tally

WDDTY CAP Code 06-02-2013

With 45 CAP Code breaches in six adjudications on seven adverts and complaints on eleven adverts informally resolved, we now have a further eight still to be resolved.

And the February issue What Doctors Don't tell You has sixteen fewer pages than the previous five issues.

06 February 2013

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