Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Dormeasan - makes you want to sleep outdoors

This advert
for Dormeasan which appeared in Healthy magazine closely resembled the ad for Prostasan that appeared twenty pages earlier.

No surprise there, since they are both promoted by A Vogel - who describe themselves as a "Pioneer in Natural Health - since 1923".

Jolly good of them to make all their adverts conform to a certain template - my ASA complaint is a cut-and-paste job, too.

"I write to complain about an advert in "Healthy" magazine (April 2010, Issue 82). I understand that the magazine is sold exclusively in Holland & Barrett stores.

The advert, for "A. Vogel", promotes "Dormeasan" which is a "traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances".

I suspect that the advert may be in breach of three sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code. I can provide an original copy of the advert by post, if required.

1. The advert makes the following claims:

(i) "[Dormeasan] provides the active ingredients that encourage undisturbed sleep"

(ii) "Taken half an hour before bedtime [Dormeasan] can help encourage undisturbed sleep."

2. The two claims are qualified by the following statement:

"Dormeasan... is a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances caused by the symptoms of mild anxiety, exclusively based upon longstanding use as a traditional remedy".

3. The first of the two claims is also qualified by a reference to a sixteen-year-old study, "M. Tobler et al: Characteristics of whole fresh plant extracts. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fuer GanzheitsMedizin, 1994"

4. Since the quoted 1994 study, more evidence has become available. For example, a 2006 meta-analysis[1] states (in its Abstract):

"A systematic review of randomized, placebo-controlled trials of valerian [a primary ingredient in Dormeasan] for improving sleep quality is presented...

Most studies had significant methodologic problems, and the valerian doses, preparations, and length of treatment varied considerably. A dichotomous outcome of sleep quality (improved or not) was reported by 6 studies and showed a statistically significant benefit...but there was evidence of publication bias in this summary measure."

5. The CAP Code, Section 7.1, states "No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise."

6. Under Section 7.1, I challenge whether the advert will "mislead, or be likely to mislead" by quoting a single study from 1994, when a more recent meta-analysis reaches different conclusions.

7. 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."

8. The CAP Code, Section 50.1, states "Medical and scientific claims made about beauty and health-related products should be backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people..."

9. I challenge whether Dormeasan's "longstanding use as a traditional remedy" and the 1994 study together satisfiy the advertiser's obligation, under Section 3.1, to "hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation".

10. I challenge whether Dormeasan's "long-standing use as a traditional remedy" and the 1994 study together satisfy the advertiser's obligation, under Section 50.1, to support " made products" with "evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people".

11. Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1, and taking into account recent advances in knowledge, I challenge whether the advertiser holds documentary evidence to prove either of the two claims (that I quote in paragraph 1), and I challenge whether the two claims are backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people.

12. I confirm that I have no connections with the advertiser, the magazine, or with the publishing and alternative medicine industries in general. I confirm that I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser or the magazine.

13. I confirm that I am happy to be identified as the complainant.


[1] doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.02.026


  1. Can you elucidate your epistemology for having any belief in anything?

  2. Jeez! Come on, what is your problem? If you don't agree, don't use it. I've never even heard of this stuff before, and the ad does not make me want to rush out and buy it. If it doesn't work, people will not buy it. This essentially means that you can stop your crusade against all things "alternative", as people won't pay for stuff that doesn't work. Please just let people look after themselves.
    Also, picking on how a company wants their ads to look the same? Each page of this ridiculous blog looks the same! It's simply uniformity / branding, get over it already!
    Do you have any free time to appreciate life?
    I really hope you get over this and start living for yourself.

    1. Andrews St Albans28 February 2012 at 08:34

      This stuff costs around £10. I saw it advertised in Candis and was tempted to try it. I'm grateful for your advice that it's claims are not backed up by research, I can save my money.

  3. Thank you; this will save wasting money on something that won't help my wife with her sleep problems. Contrary to what Alan says, people who are desperate for a good night's sleep will be tempted to try something like this.

  4. I occasionally use dormeasan when I experience
    sleeping difficulty.

    As mentioned, " it is a TEMPORARY sleep relief"
    It actually works.
    Traditional medicinal products?? is that the problem here?
    During the olden times... It was actually traditional,
    when capsules were not invented.
    so yes and resounding yes.

    However, if one wakes up and cannot sleep
    using it again will NOT work.

    Key word: TEMPORARY relief.

    It is not stated as Permanent cure.
    Therefore, it is NOT mislead, nor NEVER mislead anyone.

    The above complaint is more on word technicalities
    on some people, with not easy to understand...
    unless the reader is meant for a 7 year old.

    Dormeasan works.

    PS Like everithing in this world,
    everything in excess is not good. Use it with common sense.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Do you understand the difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence?

  5. I suffered for a long time with an illness that Doctors just were not able to help me with. They just prescribed me drug after drug. They are good for surgery and mending broken bones, but if you go to them with anything else, you're buggered.
    So in the end I turned to Complementary Therapies - I must admit skeptically - but wow how that has turned my life around. I found that this stuff really does work.
    So I thought I'd just write a quite comment to state that my fear is that the type of person who spends his time and energy writing hateful and spiteful blogs like this will prevent people like me from getting the treatment I need. How sad that there are people like this in the world. J Morgan.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      Which part of 'can you show me the evidence which backs up your claims' do you think is hateful and spiteful?


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