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 gmx DOT com

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Sunday, 24 August 2014

This list of health conditions should not be on homeopathy websites

Homeopaths have to be a bit careful about mentioning conditions on their websites, particularly conditions that would be considered serious and that would typically be under the care of a qualified doctor.

Advertising Standards in the UK do not permit homeopaths (the ones that aren't medically trained at any rate) to make claims about treating anything if they do not have any evidence (and let's face it, their evidence is uniformly poor) - they should not "make claims about the efficacy of their treamtents..."

But, and this is an important but, the authority that regulates advertising and marketing claims additionally does not permit homeopathy marketers to "refer to serious medical conditions" (this is irrespective of any evidence) if the marketer is not medically trained or if there's no doctor working at the clinic.

They can't mention conditions like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure etc. In the UK cancer is always an extremely unwise thing for a homeopath (or anyone for that matter) to claim to treat as there is actually an Act that makes doing so a criminal offence (the Cancer Act 1939), most people do not mention cancer treatments on their website for that reason.

If a homeopath lists on their website one or more serious medical conditions then they are going beyond the limits of what is possible for them to mention in their marketing material.

There are two separate things here
(1) evidence, or not and
(2) merely mentioning serious healthcare conditions

To the best of my knowledge the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) are no longer seeking evidence about homeopathy because they did a massive investigation into it a couple of years ago. This resulted in guidance which informs their future decisions about misleading marketing claims.

Additionally, my experience has been that where a homeopath has listed conditions the approach has been to focus on (2) rather than asking them for any evidence.

However these days the ASA no longer seems to be adjudicating on homeopathy claims and they don't appear to be taking them on as individual cases. Instead they seem to be simply asking the homeopath to remove the misleading claims. Failure to do so can result in the website being listed on the ASA's non-compliant online advertisers page and may also result in removal of any paid-for search-engine ads and in addition the ASA may publish an advert to appear in search engine results, warning consumers of the organisation's advertising status.

When I put in a homeopathy ASA complaint now I no longer get updates on how it's going because the case is immediately passed to the Compliance team, who do not report directly to the public. I generally hear only if the website is added to the non-compliants list (eg Islington Homeopathy)

With that in mind, it's entirely possible that I won't hear anything much about the outcome of my complaint about the website below, which I've recently submitted.

The web address is embedded here http://www.donotlink.com/bahk

There is sliding scale of fees for a consultation, depending on its length and costs for individual remedies so this site is marketing a service for which people pay.

Here is the list of conditions, apparently "just a small selection". Oh dear.





The ones that particularly concern me include asthma, bronchitis and depression but 'hormonal imbalances' should clearly have support of a doctor or endocrinologist. There are plenty others listed that worry me but those were the ones I highlighted in my complaint to the ASA.

Amazingly and amusingly there's also a seminar listed on that site, all about endocrinology. Clicking through to the seminar's own page (on another site) suggests that discussions about chakras will feature.






3 comments:

  1. When I submit complaints about websites to the New Zealand ASA or other regulators, I typically set up a change monitor so I'll be notified when the page is changed. There might be better services out there, but the one I use is free and has served me well: http://www.changedetection.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course this assumes that the homeopath changes their website ;) I suppose I need to apply this to the ASA's non-compliant list and see if *that* changes :)

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    2. It's worth doing both, I'd think.

      I've had one advertiser (In2Herbs) change an ad for "detox foot pads" months after having a complaint settled against it (http://asa.co.nz/display.php?ascb_number=13564), which prompted me to submit another complaint that was upheld (http://asa.co.nz/display.php?ascb_number=14181), so I tend to leave them set up after complaints as well.

      Delete

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).