Thursday, 21 October 2010

Boots - High Street Quackery

Boots, the high street apothecary familiar to us all, supplement their shelves (and their bottom line) with a dazzling array of complementary medicines.

Another term for complementary medicines is, of course, "quack miracle potions".

The fantastic Simon Perry and Nic Woolhouse tried to take the matter up with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), complaining that the Boots website was making dubious claims for over two hundred of its products.

The complaint didn't get very far, so now Simon is asking everyone to help him take up the matter with Trading Standards - where multiple complaints make a big, big difference.

Here is my complaint, regarding the so-called BioFirm Danish Detox Plan. If the name is familiar, it could because I've written about it before.

I hope everyone will give Simon a hand - it only takes a few moments to submit a complaint.

"I write to complain about Boots who, I suspect, are making false medical claims on their website.

For example, the "BioFirm Danish Detox Plan" product [1] is claimed to be an "effective formula" which "naturally supports the body’s own internal processes of elimination and detoxification".

I think this claim cannot be substantiated. In March this year, I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the same product, which was being advertised by a different company.

On that occasion, the advert boasted that "The Biofirm Danish Detox Plan supports your body to deal with toxins", but on 27th April the ASA wrote to tell me:

"You may not be surprised to learn that this ad has already come to our attention and we received an assurance at the end of February that this ad would not appear again."

The UK's leading authority on complementary medicine, Professor Edzard Ernst, has recently written about "detox" therapies [2]:

"Detox, as used in alternative medicine, is based on ill-conceived ideas about human physiology, metabolism, toxicology etc. There is no evidence that it does any good and some treatments...can be harmful. The only substance that is being removed from a patient is usually money."

Unless Boots can provide robust clinical evidence that the "BioFirm Danish Detox Plan" can "suppport the body's...detoxification", I complain that Boots have made false medical claims, in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPR) 2008. As you know, the regulations require companies to be able to substantiate any such claims they make with evidence.

I have compiled a list of two hundred similar dubious medical claims on the Boots website. To assist you with your prompt enquiries, I have decided to submit a single complaint, rather than two hundred and forty separate ones.


[2] Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh, "Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial", p308. ISBN 978-0-393-06661-6.

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