Thursday, 19 August 2010

Dr Liu helps with "Habitual Abortion"

Companies who profit from alternative medicine fall into two distinct categories.

The first group are wealthy enough to bring in the professionals to write their adverts. As a result, on the rare occasions when the regulators get annoyed, it's invariably a deliberate ploy to create publicity.

As for the second group... well, meet Dr Liu!

Dr Liu Chinese Clinic (image from their website) is a London shop which sells "over 300" Chinese herbal medicines and a bewildering array of holistic therapies.

In the picture above you can just about see one of the leaflets which will arrive in the ASA's mailbag tomorrow morning.

Why? Because the leaflet claims that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help with an astonishing seventy-four named conditions including

"Herpes...Vitiligo...Hay Fever...Halitosis...Arthritis...Repetitive Strain Injuries...Migraines...Facial Palsy...Chronic Fatigue Syndrome...Irritable Bowel Syndrome...Chronic Diarrhoea...Diabetes...Asthma...Flu...[Vaginal] Discharges...Infertitiliy...Impotence...Premature Ejaculation..."

...and the most worrying condition of all - of which, I admit, I was ignorant until today - something Dr Liu calls "Habitual Abortion"!

The problem with all these bizarre claims - the problem, in fact, with all Chinese herbal medicines - is that the clinical research is yet to be done.

The claims might turn out to be true, or they might prove to be undiluted bullshit. It will be decades before we know.

ASA complaint follows. Thanks go to a notable Nottingham-based sceptic who spotted the leaflet and generously passed it to me.

"I write to complain about a leaflet promoting the "Dr Liu Chinese Clinic" of Shepherd's Bush Road, London, picked up from a window display at the advertiser's premises.

I suspect that the advert may be in breach of 3 sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code.

1. The leaflet describes the kind of service the clinc provides:

"Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) a comprehensive medical system...It uses a holistic approach to produce a highly sophisticated set of practices focusing both on curing illnesses..."

2. The leaflet continues:

"TCM has remarkable curative effects and few side effects, as the treatment is specifically tailored to address a patient's particular problem using natural herbs and acupuncture..."

3. The leaflet describes the method by which these "natural herbs" are prescribed to "patients":

"TCM makes use of a very wide range of herbs...Our TCM Doctors prescribe a unique formula of herbs for each patient's needs after inspecting and diagnosing. This will involve examining the patient's tongue, feeling their pulse, checking their (western) medical history. As well as the [sic] prescribed herbs should be boiled according to the doctor's instructions and drunk as a herbal tea."

4. Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1 of the CAP Code, I challenge whether the advertisers can provide documentary evidence to substantiate any of the following claims:

(i) The TCM therapies identified in the leaflet (drinking herbal tea, acupuncture, etc.) are capable of "curing" any "illness" whatsoever

(ii) "TCM has remarkable curative effects"

(iii) "TCM has few side effects"

(iv) The clinic's employees are capable of "presrib[ing] herbs" based on a customer's "(western) medical history"

5. Under Section 7.1, I challenge whether, in the text I quote above, the use of the word "doctor" combined with the use of the words "diagnosing" and "prescribed" is misleading.

6. The leaflet describes some of the therapies offered by the advertiser (some of which are not TCM therapies).

7. Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1, I challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate any of the following claims:

(i) Acupuncture is "remarkable in its effect on alleviating painful conditions and in combating nerve and stress problems, amongst others..."

(ii) "Cupping Therapy...helps the body to work more efficiently"

(iii) Reflexology can "stimulate your inner healing ability - gradually improving your health..."

(iv) The advertiser's "Allergy testing services" are capable, "using only a sample of hair", of diagnosing allergies to "over 400 everyday items including every thing [sic] you are likely to eat, drink, breath [sic] or touch in [sic] during the normal every day [sic] run of affairs [sic]"

(v) The allergy test is capable of diagnosing allergies to "all food additives plus vitamins"

8. The leaflet lists helpfully all the conditions which the advertisers claim they can "help".

9. Under Sections 3.1 and 50.1, I challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate their claim that the herbal medicines and holistic therapies they offer can "help" with any of the following conditions:

(i) Acne
(ii) Eczema
(iii) Psoriasis
(iv) Tinea
(v) Herpes / shingles
(vi) Urticaria
(vii) Vitiligo
(viii) Athlete's foot
(ix) Other fungal infections
(x) Other skin problems
(xi) Hay fever
(xii) Sinusitis
(xiii) Tinnitus
(xiv) Otitis
(xv) Pharyngitis
(xvi) Sore throat
(xvii) Halitosis
(xviii) Mouth ulcers
(xix) Other ear, nose and throat (ENT) conditions
(xx) Arthritis
(xxi) Rheumatism
(xxii) Sciatica
(xxiii) Back pain and lumbargo, both acute and chronic
(xxiv) Periarthritis of the shoulder
(xxv) Headaches
(xxvi) Migraines
(xxvii) Trigeminal neuralgia
(xxviii) Facial palsy
(xxix) Cerebrovascular Accidental Sequela
(xxx) Hemiplegia
(xxxi) Cervical Spondylosis
(xxxii) Vaginal tendinis
(xxxiii) Thecitis
(xxxiv) "Carpel [sic] Tunnel Syndrome"
(xxxv) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME)
(xxxvi) Sports injuries
(xxxvii) Palpitations
(xxxviii) Fatigue
(xxxix) Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
(xl) "Indiagestion [sic]"
(xli) Gastroenteritis
(xlii) Colitis
(xliii) Chronic Diarrhoea
(xliv) "Habitual Constipation"
(xlv) "Hemorrhoids [sic]"
(xlvi) High blood pressure
(xlvii) Diabetes
(xlviii) Asthma
(xlix) Bronchitis
(l) Water retention
(li) Cholecystitis
(lii) Arrhythmia
(liii) Hyperthyroidism
(liv) Dysthyroidism
(lv) Colds
(lvi) Flu
(lvii) Irregular periods
(lviii) Dysmenorrhea
(lix) Menopausal syndrome
(lx) (Vaginal) discharges
(lxi) Infertility in women
(lxii) "Habitual abortion"
(lxiii) Fibroids
(lxiv) Endometrisis
(lxv) Pre-menstrual tension
(lxvi) Problems in inducing labour
(lxvii) Vaginitis
(lxviii) Morning sickness
(lxix) Other "Women's problems"
(lxx) Prostatis
(lxxi) Male impotence
(lxxii) Male "seminal emmission [sic]"
(lxxiii) Premature ejaculation
(lxxiv) Other "Men's problems"

10. I confirm that I have no connections, and am not involved in legal proceedings, with the advertiser."

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