Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Homeopaths often surprise me, sometimes the ASA do too

On Wednesday 26 Feb 2014 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published an adjudication against a homeopathy website which had been making misleading claims.

-- Edit 13 March 2014
Just spotted that on 11 March the homeopathy website (Islington Homeopathy) was added to the list of non-compliant online advertisers. Possibly the ASA will also take out a promoted advert that appears on search engine results whenever someone searches for the company.  --

The claim made was that homeopathy has been part of the NHS since it began (true), but it was written in such a way that implied the NHS endorses homeopathy (manifestly not true as it has begun the gradual process of removing funding and presumably dismantling infrastructure with hospital closures) as shown in this pic below, used with permission from Alan Henness of the Nightingale Collaboration.

Someone complained (wasn't me, I didn't spot that one) and the ASA took action and investigated.

Around the time the investigation was happening, the patients of one of the people working at the homeopathy organisation wrote a letter to the local newspaper almost-but-not-quite blaming the Nightingale Collaboration, who then wrote back to point out that they'd had nothing to do with the complaint.

Excerpt from original letter
"AS patients of a clinic in Islington where we see our homeopath, Jennifer Hautman, RSHom, we are surprised to learn that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is pursuing a single complaint regarding 24 words on the clinic website that state homeopathy “is sanctioned by the UK government and has been an integral part of the National Health Service (NHS) since 1948”.

This is a statement of fact. Homeopathy has been part of the NHS since it was founded in 1948."
Source: Islington Tribune, Letters to the editor 'Homeopathy has always had NHS role' 15 November 2013

The letter goes on to imply, somewhat evasively, that the Nightingale Collaboration could be just the sort of organisation to be behind such a complaint.  

There's a response letter from Alan Henness of the Nightingale Collaboration (disclaimer - he's a friend of mine, he doesn't pay me, I don't pay him, I'm not a member of the NC as they don't have a membership structure) pointing out that they'd had nothing to do with this particular complaint.
"I can assure the writers of this letter and Hautman that the Nightingale Collaboration is not the complainant in this case and it has nothing to do with us. We were not aware of this complaint until we read this letter."
Source: Islington Tribune, Letters to the editor 'Legal, decent, honest and truthful?' 28 November 2013

A follow-up letter comment to the Islington Tribune from Alan, after the adjudication was published, highlights that the complaint was entirely about the way in which the claim was phrased. I think I spotted a bit of mild snark there too - when you put in a complaint to the ASA I understand that they do tell the organisation what the complaint's actually about. For the patients to have heard about the complaint but not seem to know the full story suggests that someone didn't really understand what was going on or just didn't bother to mention it.

The page under investigation - - still implies that the NHS sanctions homeopathy (I'd not be surprised if they're added to the non-compliant online advertisers at some point - edit 13 March: this has now happened - and have an ASA advert appearing whenever anyone searches Google for them) but surely the list of conditions on the page is much, much worse...?!

I don't really think the phrase "Patients seeking to use homeopathy often come with these conditions:" is a permitted way of getting round the fact that you can't claim that "homeopathy can help with the following conditions" which is partly why I'm so surprised the ASA didn't look into that.

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is pretty clear that people who aren't medically qualified should "not refer to serious medical conditions".

It seems that one of the clinic's homeopaths also has her own website - - and perhaps not surprisingly this page also has a shopping list of conditions:

My favourite bit on that page is the 'full list of medical conditions where positive findings for homeopathy have been reported'. That page links to which, delightfully (I can hardly keep the sniggers down) returns a 404 'page not found' error. Forgive my childish amusement.


The correct link would actually be this one

As always, I'm afraid I no longer take comments from anyone in support of homeopathy.

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).