Challenging misleading healthcare claims

Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacy #1

The medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have today published their decision on a complaint we made to them a few months ago about the homeopathy manufacturer and seller Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacy.

As usual, the MHRA give few details of the complaint, their investigation, what they found or what they decided:

MHRA Nelsons decision 14 August 2015

Even though there is a link that purports to give more information, this simply links to the page where this decision is listed along with others for July. They even fail to give the proper name for the trader, Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacy, or give the urls of the two websites involved: http://www.nelsonsnaturalworld.com and http://www.nelsonspharmacy.com/.

It's not clear to us why these decision notices are so void of any details that would help consumers: the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by contrast, when they publish an adjudication, give full details of the complaint, their investigation, the advertiser's response, their decision and the sanctions applied. For example see this ASA adjudication against another homeopathy manufacturer, Ainsworths.

The issues we highlighted to the MHRA were mostly about the advertising of homeopathic products that was not within the terms of the authorisation or registration for those products. For example, their Arnicare Arnica 6C product stated:

Indications: For the symptomatic relief of sprains, muscle aches, bruising and swelling after contusions.

However, this is a Homeopathic Rules (HR) scheme product and its registration does not permit therapeutic indications. Instead, all advertising for HR products must simply contain the text:

A homeopathic medicinal product without approved therapeutic indications.

It's a moot point whether the general public understands this to mean that there is not a jot of good evidence that these products have any therapeutic effects whatsoever, a point raised by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee in their Evidence Check on homeopathy.

Another page advertising their Aconite 30C National Rules (NR) scheme product contained the following instructions:

They can even be dissolved in warm water if preferred.

However, the Public Assessment Report for ths product gives the posology and method of administration as:

Adults and children: Take 2 pillules every 2 hours for the first 6 doses, then 4 times daily until symptoms improve for up to a maximum of 7 days.

Pillules should either be chewed or placed under the tongue until dissolved.

Although it makes not the slightest difference to the 'effectiveness' of the homeopathic product, there is no mention of dissolving in warm water as a permitted method of administration.

The other issues covered by this decision were similar to these and we suspect they were simply oversights by Nelsons — they have now corrected them.

In total we identified eight issues with the advertising of their products on their websites, including the ones above. When the MHRA told us of their decision, we queried a couple of points and we're waiting for a further response from them. We'll let you know when these have been satisfactorily resolved.

However, the issues the MHRA have dealt with were just part of our larger complaint to both the MHRA and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), the statutory regulator for pharmacies and pharmacists. Once the GPhC have completed their investigations into all the other issues we raised, we'll let you know.

Meantime, we've added this MHRA decision to our growing list of published results.

14 August 2015

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