Stuff that occurs to me

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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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Friday, 27 December 2019

Misleading homeopathy marketing (again) - complaint submitted to Advertising Standards Authority

I'm grateful to 'BrownBagPantry' the prolific tweeter of homeopathy-related matters. Her screenshot of Alan's (zeno001) tweet alerted me to a problem with the claims made by Highgate Holistic Clinic in a tweet and on their website. I would have missed his tweet on the #homeopathy tag as Alan hadn't tagged it, so my thanks to BrownBagPantry for being solely responsible for bringing it to my attention and causing me to submit a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the clinic's misleading advertising. Had I been looking at the tag on Christmas Day I might well have seen the clinic's own tweet (as they did hashtag it) but I wasn't, so all credit to BrownBagPantry.

Normally if I'd spotted one of Alan's tweets about a misleading advert I'd have DMed him asking if he'd reported it and he might reply that he had, or that someone else had already done so, or that he was perhaps waiting until after the holidays before tackling it etc. However that's not going to happen today as I'm just going to get on with the complaint and add the text here here.

I've taken screenshots of the tweet and parts of the website to share with the ASA though I hadn't planned to add them here.

Background research
Highgate Holistic Clinic's website claims that the homeopath is a registered member of the Society of Homeopaths however double-checking on the 'Find a Homeopath' site indicates that she's a member of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths, but doesn't mention SoH membership. As a courtesy I'll let the SoH know about this in case she isn't and the info is incorrect.

Text of my complaint to the ASA
Note - the online form doesn't permit hyperlinks (where the link is behind a word) so the link was pasted in full in a list at the end with a number in brackets next to the relevant part of my text, eg [1]. It also doesn't permit bold or italic so the text has been slightly reformatted for clarity here. The text of a complaint must also be less than 5,000 characters (I had about 1,800 to spare).

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I'm complaining about a tweet from a clinic, the text of which implies that homeopathy can cure conditions, and the content of two pages from the clinic's website.

The tweet
"#Homeopathy is based on the principle of ‘like cures like’. In other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if taken in large amounts." - it is not possible for homeopathy to cure any symptoms so the text of this tweet is misleading.

The tweet links to a page on the clinic's website, which says
"Danielle Abramov is committed to homeopathy as it treats the person as a whole without the side effects of conventional medicine" - I think this statement may discourage people from visiting a doctor or from taking real medicine. It implies that medicine offers only side effects.

"...working with them towards improving their health naturally – offering a real alternative to or support for conventional treatment." - this implies that homeopathy is an alternative to conventional treatment, and also implies that it is a 'real' alternative. It isn't. I've no objection to 'support for conventional treatment' though.

"In India homeopathy is considered to be equal to allopathic medicine." - this is largely untrue but what is relevant here is the implication that homeopathy should be considered as some sort of real thing, implying that it can help people.

"Danielle Abramov is also a qualified Vega practitioner. The Vega machine is a non-invasive, painless, diagnostic tool for determining some of the causes of ill health, be it persistent viral, fungal or bacterial overload, vitamin or mineral deficiency, food intolerance or emotional blocks." - the Vega machine is not a valid diagnostic tool and you have previously noted that it is "not capable of diagnosing [respiratory allergy and sensitisation to common aero-allergens]", I do not believe it is capable of diagnosing viral, fungal or bacterial overload either. Also a lay homeopath [one who is not also a doctor or other healthcare professional] is unlikely to be competent to diagnose any health conditions (using this or any other 'diagnostic' tool).

The website also has a page on therapies that includes a section on homeopathy
The section on homeopathy says that it "... can help with many issues such as Asthma, Anxiety, Allergies, Bronchitis, Childhood Diseases

Coughs, Colds and Sore Throats, Depression, Digestive Disorders, Earache, Eczema, Exhaustion, Emotional issues, Fibroids, Grief, Headaches & Migraines, Menopause, Menstrual Complaints & Infertility, Pregnancy & Birth, Sleep Problems, Thyroid Imbalances, Urinary Disorders, Vaccination Side-Effects, Varicose Veins etc.
" - none of these can be helped by homeopathy, some are serious medical conditions that need appropriately qualified medical care and support. I also do not believe that homeopaths or clinics are allowed to list named conditions.

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What happens next?
Several years ago the ASA changed the way it handled homeopathy-related complaints. Rather than asking homeopaths to provide evidence for particular claims the ASA took a more holistic view and, recognising that homeopathy doesn't work for any condition, determined that any homeopathy claim was misleading and that there was no need to undertake an investigation for each complaint submitted. Instead, each complaint is handled as a case of non-compliance by the Compliance Team - so my complaint will be handled by them and I won't know the outcome (only adjudications are published).

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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).