Challenging misleading healthcare claims.

We need your help - again!

In this issue:

  • CNHC Campaign
  • Reflexology advertising
  • Hypnotherapy discipline descriptor update
  • Marigold therapy update

misleadingCNHC Campaign

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.

It'll only take you a few minutes to find a CNHC registrant making claims that you think might be misleading and send us the details.

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.

Reflexology advertising

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.

Many reflexologists are registered with the CNHC and we were pleased to read their April 2013 newsletter:

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

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