The UK advertising regulator has concluded that a page on Homeopathy UK's website discouraged people from seeking essential medical treatment for conditions including infertility.
The page featured anecdotal testimony from doctors about how they had applied homeopathy to treat infertility, depression, diabetes, asthma and psoriasis, and was found to be in breach of the CAP code, which is regulatory guidelines for advertising. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered the charity must not present that information in that form again, and must not refer to conditions for which medical advice should be sought in any marketing communications.
In response to ASA's investigation, Homeopathy UK stated they: 'did not seek to dismiss conventional medicine or dissuade patients from seeking essential treatment from a medical professional'. Homeopathy UK also argued that all articles were written by General Medical Council (GMC) registered doctors or other suitably recognised professional who use homeopathy in their practice when suitable.
However, ASA ruled that despite recognising GMC-registered doctors had written the articles: 'the ad and the articles to which it linked referred to homeopathy in general, rather than treatment by a specific individual'. They 'understood that there were no minimum professional qualifications required to practice homeopathy, which could result in consumers being advised, diagnosed, or treated for the conditions listed in the ad by a practitioner with no medical qualification.'
Homeopathy is one of the most popular alternative or complementary therapies used by couples undergoing IVF (see BioNews 955), though there is no evidence to support its use for improving IVF outcomes.
Cristal Skaling-Klopstock, Homeopathy UK's chief executive, told the BMJ, 'We are very disappointed by ASA's decision to uphold this complaint. As a charity committed to patient choice, we are concerned about the damaging effect a ruling like this could have on the entire complementary and alternative health sector... Not only does it challenge a medical practitioner's right to share their clinical experience, it also suggests that people considering an integrated approach to health are incapable of making informed choices, something we know to be far from the truth.'