Go into any Holland & Barretts store and you'll see two rows of magazines, one of them (I suspect) aimed at men, the other (I suggest) targeted unashamedly at women.
The latter is Healthy magazine, and it contains this amusing advert for Prostasan which claims to treat a condition suffered exclusively by - errr, men.
UPDATE, 29 Apr: ASA reply:
"We have considered your complaint and the ad in question and have decided that we don’t have grounds for further action on this occasion.
When assessing complaints about press ads, our concern is with how they will be taken by those who see them. We can and do take action where we feel an ad is likely to mislead consumers to their detriment.
While we do demand substantiation for unqualified claims, we note that Prostasan Saw Palmetto capsules have been granted a Traditional Herbal Registration Certificate by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on the basis that the applicant was able to provide sufficient data to demonstrate 30 years of traditional use within the European Community as well as the required level of satisfactory safety data.
I hestitate to criticise the ASA, whose carefully-considered judgements I can normally accept, even when they go against me.
But on this occasion, the ASA have got it absolutely wrong. In my opinion, this is an appalling decision that is very likely indeed to mislead consumers to their detriment.
Younger male readers of this blog might not know what BPH and LUTS stand for, but by the time they reach their seventies, they undoubtedly will.
My ASA complaint explains all.
"I write to complain about an advert in "Health" magazine (April 2010, Issue 77). I understand that the magazine is sold exclusively in Holland & Barrett stores.
The advert, for "A. Vogel", promotes "Prostasan" which is a "traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of an enlarged prostate".
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) "Now there is an uncomplicated herbal solution which can bring relief to [enlarged prostrate] symptoms, and a welcome return to an uninterrupted night's sleep - for everyone".
(ii) "Prostasan is a traditional herbal medicine used to relieve the symptoms of prostate enlargement."
2. The second of the two claims is qualified by the following statement:
(i) "Prostasan is a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve urinary symptoms in men with a confirmed diagnosis of an enlarged prostrate (BPH), exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy."
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. I challenge whether Prostasan's "long-standing use as a traditional remedy" satisfies 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".
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 challenge whether Prostasan's "long-standing use as a traditional remedy" satisfies the advertiser's obligation, under Section 50.1, to support "medical...claims made about...health-related products" with "evidence, where appropriate consisting of trials conducted on people".
7. (i) A meta-analysis published by the Cochrane Review has investigated the "effects of Serenoa repens [Saw Palmetto, the primary ingredient in Prostasan] in the treatment of LUTS [irritative lower urinary tract symptoms] consistent with BPH [Benign prostatic hyperplasia, i.e. an enlarged prostrate]".
(ii) The meta-analysis states:
Serenoa repens was not more effective than placebo for treatment of urinary symptoms consistent with BPH."
8. Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1, 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.
9. The CAP Code, Section 7.1, states "No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise."
10. I challenge whether the advert will "mislead, or be likely to mislead" by suggesting that Prostasan's "long-standing use as a traditional remedy" might be a reliable indicator of its efficacy.
11. 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.
11. I confirm that I am happy to be identified as the complainant.
 doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001423. PMID 12137626.