Homeopathy charity hit by ad ban after claiming its use for depression

Homeopathy charity is hit by ad ban after claiming the treatment can be used for depression, diabetes and infertility

  • ASA ruled Homeopathy UK broke code on discouraging depression treatment
  • Watchdog said website contained links to articles with homeopathic treatments 
  • Charity argued it ‘did not seek to dismiss conventional medicine or dissuade patients from seeking essential treatment from a medical professional’ 

A homeopathic charity has been banned from referring to conditions including depression, diabetes and infertility on its website by the advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled Homeopathy UK broke the CAP Code, which requires that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

The watchdog said the ‘Conditions Directory’ page, which it considered an advertisement, on Homeopathy UK’s website contained clickable links to articles with anecdotal descriptions from doctors detailing how they had applied homeopathic methods to treat the conditions in question.

The charity, previously known as the British Homeopathic Association, argued it ‘did not seek to dismiss conventional medicine or dissuade patients from seeking essential treatment from a medical professional’, the ASA said in its ruling.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled Homeopathy UK broke the CAP Code, which requires that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought

Homeopathy UK also said its articles were intended to be informative and helpful to the public and had been written by general practitioners, General Medical Council (GMC) registered doctors and other statutorily regulated health professionals who used homeopathy in their practice where they deemed it appropriate.

The ASA noted the content was written by GMC-registered doctors but said ‘the ad and the articles to which it linked referred to homeopathy in general, rather than treatment by a specific individual’.

‘We understood that there were no minimum professional qualifications required to practice homeopathy, which could result in consumers being advised, diagnosed, or treated for the conditions listed in the ad by a practitioner with no medical qualification,’ the ASA’s ruling stated.

The watchdog said the ‘Conditions Directory’ page (pictured after it was updated), which it considered an advertisement, on Homeopathy UK’s website contained clickable links to articles with anecdotal descriptions from doctors detailing how they had applied homeopathic methods to treat the conditions in question

‘We therefore considered Homeopathy UK would not be able to demonstrate that all such treatment would be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.’

‘The ad must not appear again in the form complained about,’ ASA added.

‘We told Homeopathy UK to ensure their future marketing communications did not to refer to conditions for which advice should be sought from suitably qualified health professionals.’

WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF HOMEOPATHY? 

Homeopathy was first coined in 1807 by German doctor Samuel Hahnemann, and focuses on three principles: like cures like, dilution, and ‘water remembers.’

Dr Hahnemann believed that medicine in his time was doing more harm than good, so he began to conduct experiments on volunteers and himself.

One such experiment included eating the bark of a cinchona tree, which was then used as a treatment for malaria. Scientists have since found that this bark contains quinine, an antimalarial drug.

After eating some of the bark, Hahnemann experienced symptoms which he likened to those of malaria, spawning the first principle ‘like cures like.’

The doctor thought that if a substance in large doses causes certain symptoms, it can be used in small doses to cure them.

According to the British Homeopathy Association, the remedies are used by over 200 million people worldwide to treat both acute and chronic conditions.

However, a 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos (dummy treatments).

In 2017 NHS England said it would no longer fund homeopathy on the NHS as the lack of any evidence for its effectiveness did not justify the cost. This was backed by a High Court judgement in 2018.  

This is because they found ‘no clear or robust evidence to support the use of homeopathy on the NHS’.  

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