UPDATE: Consumer Direct: complaint has been passed to local branch of Trading Standards
UPDATE: ASA: "...we have already investigated and upheld complaints about this advertiser in the past...I've therefore passed the case to our Compliance team..."
UPDATE: GMC: complaint not accepted for unknown reasons
The following advert appeared in my local rag, the Luton and Dunstable Herald and Post, on 17th December. "Dr Gorania" is offering a homeopathic treatment for vitiligo, a chronic skin condition. He claims that he has treated an astonishing 20,000 people with a 100% success rate.
"The patients are highly depressed due to the age old incurability of white spots. According to Homeopathic School of thinking and philosophy the internal causes of the diseases are the same, irrespective of the name of the disease. Dr. Gorania successfully worked on the prinicipals [sic] and treated 20,000 of leucoderma (Vitligo) [sic]. The success rate is very good - 100% (excluding those who do not wait for a reasonable time). It proves if the internal cause of any disease properly diagnosed and correctly treated with the finest precision it should scientifically respond in practice.
"Other treatments include: Alopecia Areata, Thinning and Falling of Hairs, Unwanted Hairs, Balding, Arthritis, Hypertension, Asthma, Eczema, Psoriasis, Colitis, Thyroid disorder, Tinnitus, Acne, Depression, Sexual Problems, Infertility and many more. Patients can be seen at LONDON, LUTON, LEICESTER, LEEDS and BIRMINGHAM BRANCHES (Home visits also available).
Features of Therapy: Oral (internal) medications up-roots internal causes. No need of sun harmful UV light exposure. No hospitalisation.
If Vitiligo reoccurs - we will treat it for free.
The fee is £320 (inc. medicines) for 4 months. Every patient should thoroughly know the duration and other details and prepare ones self [sic] for completion of the course, to ensure success.
Tel. 01582 861 321 (Lines open 10am - 10pm)
APPOINTMENTS ESSENTIAL EVERYWHERE"
In response, I sent the following letter to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)...
I write to complain about an advert published in the Herald and Post newspaper, published in Luton and Dunstable, on Thursday 17th December, 2009.
The advert is entitled “Homeopathic Clinic – Dr. Gorania in England to treat vitiligo (white spots) patients”.
I enclose an original copy of the advert. I believe it is in breach of several sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) Code.
1. The advert claims that Dr Gorania “successfully...treated 20,000 patients of [sic] leucoderma (Vitligo) [sic]”.
2. Vitiligo is a chronic disorder which causes depigmentation of the skin, typically at the extremities. Evidence-based medicine offers a number of treatments for sufferers.
3. The CAP code, section 3.1, states “Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation.”
4. There is no evidence in any peer-reviewed medical or scientific journal that suggests homeopathic treatments are effective against vitiligo. If Dr Gorania has in fact conducted research in this area of medicine, he has not published his results in any such journal. Section 3.1 of the code has therefore been breached.
5. Section 6.1 of the CAP code states “Marketers should not exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers.”
6. It would be unreasonable to expect consumers to be familiar with the latest medical research about any medical disorder. Even when medical journals are available at public libraries or on the internet, few consumers possess sufficient medical knowledge to understand the research they contain. No part of the advert mentions the lack of evidence for homeopathic treatment of vitiligo. Therefore section 6.1 of the code has been breached.
7. The advert claims “The success rate is very good – 100% (excluding those who do not wait for a reasonable time)”.
8. Section 7.1 of the CAP code states “7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.”
9. Modern medicine knows of no treatment, for any medical condition, that is “100% successful”. The claim is simply deceitful and in breach of section 7.1 of the code.
10. If Dr Gorania is indeed able to treat vitiligo with homeopathic treatments, then his claim of 100% success is an exaggeration, a further breach of section 7.1 of the code.
11. The advert mentions that “Other treatments include: Alopecia Areata, Thinning and Falling of Hairs, Unwanted Hairs, Balding, Arthritis, Hypertension, Asthma, Eczema, Psoriasis, Colitis, Thyroid disorder, Tinnitus, Acne, Depression, Sexual Problems, Infertility and many more.”
12. The advert thus gives the impression that Dr Gorania's homeopathic treatment is effective against a number of medical disorders. However, Dr Ben Goldacre, writing in The Lancet (November 2007) says “Five large meta-analyses of homoeopathy trials have been done. All have had the same result: after excluding methodologically inadequate trials and accounting for publication bias, homoeopathy produced no statistically significant benefit over placebo.” The advert is therefore in breach of several sections of the code, including sections 3, 6 and 7.
13. The advert uses the title “Dr” for a practicioner offering treatment at several UK clinics.
14. The General Medical Council (GMC) requires “all doctors wanting to practise medicine in the UK need to hold both registration and a licence to practise.” The GMC website provides a list of registered doctors, updated “daily”.
15. Dr. Gorania is not registered with the GMC and is not licensed to practise medicine in the United Kingdom. His claim to be a legitimate doctor is in breach of section 2.1 of the CAP code, which states “2.1 All marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.”
...and this letter to Trading Standards (via Consumer Direct)...
Re: Luton and Dunstable "Herald and Post", 17th December 2009
On page 3 of the "special advertising feature" (effectively the reverse side of the back page), there is an advert which concerns me greatly.
I have made a separate complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority. What I'd like to bring to your attention is someone who may be practicing medicine unlawfully.
The advert claims that someone called "Dr Gorania" is able to treat vitiligo (a chronic condition causing depigmentation on the skin) with a 100% success rate, and all for a mere £320.
According to the General Medical Council website, "To practise medicine in the UK all doctors are required by law to hold both registration and a licence to practise." The same website provides a list of registered persons which is "updated daily".
As of today (23rd December), Dr Gorania is not registered with the GMC and he does not hold a licence to practise medicine.
Dr Gorania offers treatment at several locations in the UK. I've named the nearest one to me in section 2.
...and a further enquiry to the General Medical Council. The advert has also been discussed here.