British Institute for Allergy and Environmental Therapy
Date: 9 March 2011
Sector: Health and beauty
Number of complaints: 1
Complaint Ref: 140626
Two leaflets for hay fever remedies.
a. One leaflet was headlined “Allergy Testing and Treatment” and made a number of efficacy claims about the product, which included “With these simple homeopathic and herbal hayfever [sic] remedies you will change the way your body reacts to pollens [sic]. Without antihistamines. Without chemical drugs. In a completely natural way … By simply allowing the symptoms to disappear and then get on with your life … the homeopathic hayfever [sic] remedies … are able to protect the individual from the effects of pollens [sic] … Together with tinctures of herbs to help normalise the working of the immune system, almost complete protection from hayfever [sic] is assured in a completely natural way … Patients usually experience a great deal of improvement the first season and may expect to be symptom free the second … It is not too late to start treatment even when the pollen count is high … certainly one of the most effective alternative therapies for the treatment of allergic conditions”.
b. The second leaflet was headlined “Ffynnonwen Remedies Hayfever [sic] Treatment”. Text underneath stated “The specialist isopathic approach to desensitisation for allergies, developed over the last thirty years at the [British]Institute [for Allergy and Environmental Therapy] and now used by all our members has proved to be one of the most effective treatments available. We offer treatment for all common allergic symptoms including hayfever [sic], asthma, eczema and IBS. Our testing method (muscle testing or kinesiology) is completely non-invasive, extremely accurate and involves no discomfort for the patient. It may be used with children, infants and the elderly. When allergies are found they can be easily treated using our isopathic desensitizing drops. There is no need for you to … suffer the misery of hayfever [sic] all summer long”.
One complainant challenged whether:
1. the efficacy claims in ad (a) were misleading and could be substantiated;
2. the efficacy claims in ad (b) were misleading and could be substantiated;
3. ad (a) breached the Code because it implied that the treatment was safe merely because it was natural;
4. ad (a) made unauthorised medicinal claims for an unregistered product;
5. ad (a) failed to include a warning to consult a medical doctor if symptoms persist.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. & 2. The British Institute for Allergy & Environmental Therapy (BIAET) said that they were not aware that the ad had been distributed to members of the public. They explained that the ad had been prepared for an exhibition that was for alternative therapists and that no members of the public were expected to attend. However, they explained that the leaflets might have formed part of their literature to be given to members of the public.
BIAET provided a brief report about a study carried out by a homeopathic hospital for an investigation of three different isopathic dose regimes used in the treatment of allergies. They believed that that investigation showed considerable success in the treatment of hay fever. They considered that that study substantiated their efficacy claims.
BIAET also provided an article written by Dr Reilly which had been published by the Academic Departments at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. The article which appeared on their own website reviewed what evidence was available to substantiate efficacy claims for homeopathy. They considered that that article substantiated their ads.
3. BIAET believed the complainant was mistaken in their concern that the ad (a) implied that because their remedy was natural it was safe. They said that it was not misleading to call the remedy natural because that was true. They explained that they understood there was growing concern among patients about the chemical nature of the majority of prescription drugs and their potential associated side effects. They believed that the word natural would be understood by patients to be associated with homeopathy and herbalism. They considered the ad made clear that the product was natural because it did not have side effects and did not use chemical drugs. They did not consider ad (a) was misleading on this point.
4. BIAET believed that the complainant had ignored homeopathys many recorded successes. They did not believe that it was a valid complaint and they considered that the was an attack on homeopathy generally.
5. BIAET acknowledged that the CAP Code required ads for UK registered homeopathic medicines to carry a warning that patients should consult their GP if their symptoms persisted.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA noted from the report, that the study team at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital investigated three different isopathic (homeopathic) dose regimes used in the treatment of allergies. We also noted that we had not seen a full copy of the study or its results.
We noted that there were 69 patients in the trial and that they were prescribed a homeopathic remedy that was tailored to their own individual reaction to an allergen. However, we noted that it was not clear from the report which allergen the patient was treated for, or whether they were treated for hay fever and for which pollen type. We understood that the remedy was taken over a period of four weeks and patients were asked to self-report on whether there had been an improvement in their symptoms. We understood that there was no objective clinical measure of the patients symptoms and improvement, and that the study was not controlled or blinded.
We noted that patients were given one of three different dose regimes that consisted of powders and tablets of varying potencies and a placebo. However, we also noted that the study did not make clear what ingredients were in the remedy, and it was not therefore possible to ascertain whether it was the same ingredient used in the advertised product. Furthermore, we noted that the way in which the treatment was administered in the study, and the dose regime, was not the same as the advertised remedy sold by BIAET. We understood from the ad that the advertisers product was a liquid taken orally and over two hay fever seasons. We understood further from ad (b) that sufferers should begin taking the remedy in January/February each year. We noted that the treatment regime in the study treated patients over a four-week period and that it was not clear at what time of year the study took place.
We noted the article on homeopathy provided by BIAET, but we also noted that the article was a general discussion and profile of homeopathy, and did not assess whether homeopathy could treat the symptoms of hay fever.
Because we considered we had not seen suitable evidence to substantiate the claims made by BIAET that their product could treat hay fever, we concluded that the ads were misleading.
On this point, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration), 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
We noted the ad claimed that the product would change the way in which the body reacted to pollen … without antihistamines. Without chemical drugs. Without side effects. In a completely natural way …”. We considered that consumers would understand the claim to imply that there were no side effects from taking the remedy because the remedy was natural, and that it was therefore safe to use. Because we considered the ad implied that the remedy was safe merely because it was natural, we concluded the ad breached the Code.
On this point, ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.10 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
4. & 5. Upheld
We noted ad (a) included the claims “with these simple homeopathic and herbal hayfever remedies you will change the way your body reacts to pollens [sic]” and “tinctures of herbs to help normalise the working of the immune system”. We considered that those claims implied that the remedy had a physiological effect on the body, and were, therefore, medicinal claims.
We noted the CAP Code stated that medicinal claims may be made for homeopathic medicinal products registered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). We also noted we had not seen evidence from the BIAET that the remedy was registered as a homeopathic medicinal product. Moreover, we also understood the CAP Code required marketers of homeopathic remedies making such claims to include a warning that patients must consult their GP if their symptoms persisted. We noted that the ad did not include that statement. We considered that the ad made medicinal claims for an unauthorised product and that it failed to carry the appropriate warning. Because of that, we concluded the ad breached the Code on these points.
Ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 12.1 and 12.20 (Medicines, medical devices, health related products and beauty products).
The ads must not appear again in their current form.
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