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Advertising regulator raps charity over homeopathy claims in advert

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has censured a charity over 'misleading' claims in an advert promoting the use of homeopathy in the NHS.

The controversy centred on a magazine advert placed by the charity Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century that claimed homeopathy had ‘a history of success in chronic illness' and offers ‘a caring alternative' - and claimed ‘opposition to homeopathy is based on propaganda'.

The advertisement in the New Statesman led to six public complaints, which challenged whether 12 claims in the advert could be substantiated.

The ASA upheld seven of the 12 complaints, including that ‘homeopathy has a history of success in chronic illness', that ‘more randomised controlled trials are positive than negative', and the assertion that ‘even a small increase in spending on homeopathy could produce dramatic benefits, reducing care needs and increasing patient quality of life'.

It also ruled that claims the lobby group Sense About Science was ‘funded by pharmaceutical companies and relies on a strategy of propaganda stunts rather than scientific research' and that prominent academic and Pulse blogger Professor Edzard Ernst book's Trick or Treatment  ‘has been shown to be scientifically unreliable' were also in breach.

It's assessment report said: ‘We noted many of the studies which reported positive outcomes were based on patient self-assessments only, whereas a substantial review of over 100 placebo-controlled trials showed no convincing evidence that homeopathy was superior to placebo.'

‘We concluded that Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century had not supplied sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim and noted there was a lack of evidence to support claims for its efficacy. We concluded that the ad was misleading.'

The ASA ruled that the advert should not appear again in its current form.

Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century said it would appeal the decision. Paul Burnett, chairman of H:MC21 said in response to the ruling:, ‘After ten months of deliberation the ASA has presented a disgraceful judgement in the form of its adjudication on the advertisement in the New Statesman.'

'The adjudication is not about consumers; it is about suppressing the charity's ability to inform the public of the demonstrated facts that set out a clear argument for homeopathy as a legitimate, cost effective and safe alternative to conventional medicine.'