Now that their remit has been extended to online promotions, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) are going to be dealing with a great deal more complaints this year.
The Nightingale Collaboration today announced the start of a fascinating project. According to them, we can help the ASA to manage its caseload more effectively by focusing our complaints on a single area of healthcare each month.
Like the proverbial fish in a barrel, March has been declared Homeopathy month.
The ASA's remit was announced nearly a year ago, and among the nation's alternative therapists there have been frantic efforts to rewrite their websites.
Of course, I'm using the word 'frantic' in the same sense that a snail is frantic while standing in the queue at the Snail Post Office.
Among the hundred homeopaths in the list I compiled last year - in an unrelated complaint - nearly all of them are making claims on their websites which are unlikely to survive an ASA adjudication.
It's not that they don't know any better, alas. Take this rather prominent homeopath - Ursula Kraus-Harper - a senior figure in the pro-homeopathy movement.
Her own website is full of the usual claims for which homeopathy supporters have, as yet, been unable to provide substantiation. To name but a few:
"Homeopathy is especially helpful with chronic conditions. Studies and extensive clinical experience show... ADHD, asthma, autism, depression, eczema, fibromyalgia, glue-ear, hayfever, IBS, ME, migraine[s], osteoarthritis, psoriasis [and] rheumatoid arthritis have benefited from homepathy [sic]..."
For those readers who are less trusting than me, Ursula reassures us that
"...plenty of scientific research show[s] that homeopathy is indeed very effective. You will find evidence for this statement in the research section."
Excited visitors alighting on the aforementioned research section will be disappointed to find the message
"RESEARCH ABOUT HOMEOPATHY. ...This page will be updated over the coming month"
Which of the great many coming months is not made clear (in any case, it is exactly one day too late for Ursula).
This tragi-comic gaff isn't the only glaring error. A page promoting a homeopathic treatment for autism notes that many child sufferers have strong sugar cravings.
Ursula's suggested remedy? Why, concentrated sugar pills, of course!
If the ruthless exploitation of sufferers of chronic diseases has inspired you to help, you should head over to the Nightingale Collaboration website right now. It takes just a few minutes to write a good ASA complaint.
"I'm writing to complain about the marketing claims on Ursula Kraus-Harper's website, http://www.homeopathymiltonkeynes.co.uk/
Ms Kraus-Harper is a homeopath who lives near Milton Keynes, and the website promotes her homeopathy practice.
The website contains a number of claims about homeopathy and related therapies, and directs the reader to her "Research" page. However, as of today, the research page is empty ( http://www.freezepage.com/1299005704FLTIPJPESD )
I don't believe that any of the following claims are true, so I'd like to challenge whether Ms Kraus-Harper can substantiate any of them:
( http://www.homeopathymiltonkeynes.co.uk/phdi/p1.nsf/supppages/uschi?opendocument&part=3 )
( http://www.freezepage.com/1299005365DKYIHLPYSC )
(i) "...plenty of scientific research show[s] that homeopathy is indeed very effective."
(ii) "Homeopathy is especially helpful with chronic conditions. Studies and extensive clinical experience show... ADHD, asthma, autism, depression, eczema, fibromyalgia, glue-ear, hayfever, IBS, ME, migraine[s], osteoarthritis, psoriasis [and] rheumatoid arthritis have benefited from homepathy [sic]"
(iii) "Homeopathy has many very useful remedies for first aid situations and for all minor complaints..."
(iv) "Homeopathy can... [make] you less susceptible to colds, coughs and influenza..."
(v) "Homeopathic remedies are also very useful before and after an operation or dental treatment, as they can speed up the healing process considerably..."
( http://www.homeopathymiltonkeynes.co.uk/phdi/p1.nsf/supppages/uschi?opendocument&part=4 )
( http://www.freezepage.com/1299005409RFLNRPVZQW )
(vi) "The CEASE Therapy [for treating autism] consists of systematic detoxification by tracking down and eliminating causative factors of illness such as vaccination... using homeopathic preparations of the substances that caused the autism... clinical experience has shown that it works in almost all cases..."
(vii) "...[Randomised Controlled Trials] have not been carried out for most of the treatment you get on the NHS"
(viii) "...the homeopathic remedy Saccharum officinale [can] restore the integrity of the intestines; it can help to reduce the insatiable appetite many autistic children have, restore lack of appetite and and reduce sugar cravings"
I'd like to confirm that I have no professional interest in the health industry."