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Scotland Bans Some Homeopathic Claims

A government agency in Scotland has struck a blow for rationality by prohibiting a homeopathic group from making certain claims on their website that are not supported by scientific evidence. This is a few months old, but I totally missed it at the time.
CLAIMS made on the Society of Homeopaths website that controversial therapies could treat conditions such as arthritis and hayfever have been banned in a landmark ruling by advertising watchdogs.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has had a remit since 2011 to investigate claims made online, and the organisation said it had a large number of complaints relating to claims on homeopathy websites.

It chose to investigate the website of industry body the Society of Homeopaths as a test case “to establish our lead position on claims for homeopathy”…

The ASA found that all of the claims investigated were misleading and breached guidelines on health advertising.

The society’s homepage states: “There is a growing body of research evidence suggesting that treatment by a homeopath is clinically effective, cost-effective and safe.

“Currently, there is sufficient research evidence to support the use of homeopathic treatment for the following medical conditions: allergies and upper respiratory tract infections, ankle sprain, bronchitis, childhood diarrhoea, chronic fatigue, ear infections, fibromyalgia, hay- fever, influenza, osteoarthritis, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatic diseases, sinusitis, vertigo.

“Your local homeopath would be happy to discuss any health problems with you and offer advice about whether they might be able to help.”

We need to do the same thing here, including cracking down on the massive industry in “supplements” that make claims to do wondrous things but almost never do. They can start with the roughly 4,592,110 different products for “natural male enhancement” and their commercials full of ridiculous double entendres. These are scams, plain and simple, and they ought to be outlawed.

Comments

  1. gshelley says

    Most companies seem to follow the ASA rulings, but I don’t think they can enforce it for companies/organisations that don’t – they even have a page for non compliant organisations. Still, this is a positive thing.

  2. intergalacticmedium says

    I have always felt if the quack empire ever had to stand up to the same legal scrutiny that actual medicines and medical professionals rightly endure then they would crumble to dust overnight.

  3. matty1 says

    @1 They do have a page for sanctions. These mainly consist of asking publishers/broadcasters not to carry the offending ad, which is a serious threat if you want a TV spot on the heavily regulated UK free to air commercial channels but a lot less so for websites. As governments all over the world have found in various contexts you can’t make ‘the internet’ follow the rules.

  4. says

    They can start with the roughly 4,592,110 different products for “natural male enhancement” and their commercials full of ridiculous double entendres. These are scams, plain and simple, and they ought to be outlawed.

    Sigh . . . can’t you let a man keep a few of his illusions?

  5. karmacat says

    Homeopathy for an ankle sprain? I guess it would work if you just freeze the homeopathy products and put it on your ankle. Of course, you could just use regular water at no cost.

  6. unbound says

    That would be a complete reversal if implemented in the US. The FDA has only gone against violators that have something specific in their claims (e.g. they didn’t go after General Mills about the cholesterol lowering claims of Cheerios until they put specific numbers). The FDA is perfectly happy to let cereal manufacturers claim all kinds of benefits otherwise (when, in fact, the studies showing cereals as beneficial only marginally meet statistical significance). Most of the health benefits cereals claim are due to the same supplements that most physicians decry (seriously, look at a bottle of one-a-day and at a box of cereal…same ingredients for the vitamins and minerals).

    I think they need to tackle homeopathy head on since the concept itself is utter nonsense. That will be the best path for improvement for everyone.

  7. zarwolf says

    Actually this isn’t just Scotland – the ASA is a UK-wide agency. The linked story just happens to be in The Scotsman, which is (as the name suggests) a Scottish-based newspaper, but the ruling applies to the whole of the UK and not just Scotland. So even better news.

  8. gshelley says

    @3
    Well that is better than nothing, but doesn’t seem like much they can do, other than trying to shame any con compliant organization, especially for a small one that doesn’t have a big online presence

    In addition to the non-broadcast options, CAP has further sanctions that can be invoked to help ensure marketers’ claims on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space under their control, comply with the Codes.

    CAP can ask internet search websites to remove a marketer’s paid-for search advertisements when those advertisements link to a page on the marketer’s website that hosts non-compliant marketing communications.

    Marketers may face adverse publicity if they cannot or will not amend non-compliant marketing communications on their own websites or in other non-paid-for space online under their control. Their name and non-compliance may be featured on a dedicated section of the ASA website and, if necessary, in an ASA advertisement appearing on an appropriate page of an internet search website.

  9. oranje says

    @karmacat: That’s the one that jumped out at me, too. Not wrists. Not knees. But ankle sprain, the shaking and mixing fixes that right up.

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