Tuesday, 6 April 2010
*Dr & Herbs (part 2) - depression is all about stagnated Qi, you know
Dr & Herbs - a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shop, trading on a high street near you - is one of my favourite advertisers.
UPDATE, 28 Apr: ASA say "Given that we have an established position on ads that refer to serious medical conditions such as depression in this way I've passed the case to our Compliance team, which will follow it up."
In one of their flyers (available here and here) they make some odd claims about a possible treatment for depression.
I'd like to know if they can sustain their claims. ASA complaint follows.
"I write to complain about flyers available outside the Luton branch of "Dr & Herbs", a "Traditional Chinese Medicine" retail outlet.
I suspect that the flyers may be in breach of three sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code.
I have submitted scans of the flyer. I can provide an original copy of the flyer by post, if required.
1. The CAP Code, Section 7.1, states "No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise."
2. The flyer states:
"The depression in modern medicine falls into the categories of "Yu-syndrome" (depressed syndrome) and "Zang Zao" (restlessness of Zang-organs" in Chinese medicine, which are understood to be caused by abnormal emotions leading to the stagnated flow of Qi."
3. (i) Under Section 7.1, I challenge whether the flyer misleads, or is likely to mislead, in comparing "modern [Western] medicine" and "Chinese medicine [TCM]" by failing to note that only the former is an evidence-based practice.
(ii) Under Section 7.1, I further challenge whether the following statements mislead, or are likely to mislead:
(iii) "Protracted or excessive emotional depression could consume the heart Qi and undermine the blood so that the heart fails to be nourished and is thus unable to house the mind, so the mind becomes out of order."
(iv) "Excessive thinking and worrying could over-exert the heart and spleen, leading to the insufficiency of both Qi and blood, so the heart is malnourished and the mind is disturbed, resulting in the waning of heart Qi and declining of courageousness."
(v) "Consitutional Yin deficiency or prolonged liver-Qi stagnation turns to fire, which takes from the Yin-fluid in the body, so the insufficient Yin leads to the flaring up of fire and the floating of the imbalanced Yang."
4. 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."
5. 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..."
6. (i) Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1, I challenge whether the advertiser holds documentary evidence to prove the following claim, and I challenge whether the claim is backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people:
(ii) The advertiser's consultants are capable of selecting "a group of raw herbs...to form a prescription, which is tailor-made for the patient [who has depression]"
7. (i) Regarding the treatment of depression with acupuncture, the Cochrane Review states: 
This review is an update and now contains data from 30 studies... Thirty trials with 2,812 participants are included in the meta-analysis.
There was a high risk of bias in the majority of trials. There was insufficient evidence of a consistent beneficial effect from acupuncture compared with a wait list control or sham acupuncture control...
We found insufficient evidence to recommend the use of acupuncture for people with depression. The results are limited by the high risk of bias in the majority of trials meeting inclusion criteria."
(ii) Under Section 3.1, I challenge whether the advertiser holds documentary evidence to prove the following claim; under section 50.1, I challenge whether the claim is backed by evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people; under Section 7.1, I challenge whether the claim misleads, or is likely to mislead:
"Acupuncture: Chinese acupuncture treatment can ease depression. Some studies found it superior to anti-depressant drugs and with less side-effects"
8. I confirm that I have no connections with the advertiser or with the alternative medicine industry in general. I confirm that I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser.
9. I confirm that I am happy to be identified as the complainant.