Challenging misleading healthcare claims

Season's Greetings

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We know from what our supporters tell us that there are more than a few pharmacists up and down the country who still either aren't sure what homeopathy is and even recommend it to some of their customers in the mistaken belief that it is a proven, efficacious alternative medicine.

We thought we'd seize the opportunity of this time of year to try to raise awareness among high street pharmacists and their staff about homeopathy.

We have sent greetings cards to the pharmacists and staff of nearly 2,000 Boots pharmacy stores up and down the country.

The front of the card is shown above and we included some information explaining the absurdity and lack of evidence for homeopathy. The complete card can be downloaded here (pdf).

We hope that pharmacists will use the card to help make sure staff are properly informed about homeopathic products when responding to queries about them from customers.

If you like this idea, please feel free to print the card out and drop it into your local pharmacy or health store.

Homeopathic advertising

While you're there, you might like to check if they have any advertising next to homeopathic products. You may remember that the medicines regulator (the MHRA) told Boots to stop making medical claims for pills with no active ingredient and we asked our supporters to check their local Boots to make sure this prohibited point-of-sale advertising had been removed.

After a supporter found that it had not been removed from their local Boots near Birmingham, he complained to the MHRA who took it up with Boots. The MHRA assured him that Boots had now put a process in place to ensure all the prohibited advertising was not only removed, but also destroyed — and their head office are actively checking that this has all been done.

Boots are to be congratulated on taking such firm and responsible action.

It's unfortunate that this prohibited advertising had been around so long unchallenged in the first place, but at least now, no member of the public can be misled by it.

But what about other shops and pharmacies?

Boots isn't the only shop to use this kind of advertising. Boots homeopathic products are made by Nelsons and they also supply many other high street pharmacies and health food shops — one of the best known is Holland and Barrett. Our local H&B sells Nelsons homeopathic products and had similar point-of-sale advertising to Boots, so we complained to the MHRA.

The MHRA upheld our complaint and the prohibited advertising materials are being withdrawn from Holland and Barrett stores.

Since the MHRA had contacted Nelsons over this, we now hope that Nelsons will respond positively and responsibly and withdraw all such advertising from all shops that have been supplied with it.

If you find a shop that is still using it, feel free to use our updated information sheet to inform the pharmacist or shop owner of the MHRA's rules.

The use of advertising for homeopathic products registered under the MHRA's Simplified Scheme that links medical conditions to those products is prohibited and such advertising should now be a thing of the past.

Season's greetings to those who are our supporters…and to those who aren't!

20 December 2011

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