SA advertising watchdog finds against doctor on ‘immune boosting’ product

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A complaint by a SA medical practitioner against an ‘immune boosting’ natural health product, called Kiddies Snotty Totty, has failed before the Advertising Regulatory Board, in a finding important to the advertising of homeopathic and natural products, writes MedicalBrief.

Natural health products can make unscientific claims about their benefits even if a doctor who has studied at the world’s top universities says they’re nonsense. The Times reports that that is the outcome of a complaint to the advertising watchdog by Dr James Seddon.

Seddon, a paediatric infectious-disease and immunology specialist, was so annoyed by an ad from online retailer Faithful to Nature that he complained to the Advertising Regulatory Board.

The report says the retailer had sent him an e-mail headed “Get your little ones through the sniffle season”, promoting a range of products. It said: “Keep their developing immune systems in tip-top shape through the changing seasons by supplementing with our ranges of clean, natural health boosters. Actively fights infections and excess mucus.”

The report says Seddon, who has medical degrees from Oxford and Cambridge universities in the UK and studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University in the US, said the idea of immune-boosting was a fallacy and not medically recognised.

MedicalBrief extracts from the Directorate of the ARB finding:

“The challenge was fairly wide and non-specific, with the complainant taking issue with the whole concept of immune boosting, which he states is a fallacy and not medical recognised… The Directorate notes that there is no rule saying that advertising of complementary medicines can only use medically recognised terms. The only question is whether consumers are misled by advertising.

“The second issue that the Directorate wishes to dispose of is the question of “peer reviewed scientific evidence”, which is what the complainant calls for. It must be understood that the ARB is not mandated to regulate medicines. As things stand, there are a number of medical paradigms. The medicine that we associate with getting from the doctor is usually allopathic medicine, which finds its proof in peer-reviewed double-blind placebo controlled testing.

“However, there are a number of other paradigms, including homeopathic and herb-based medicines. These paradigms are not tested in the same way as allopathic medicines and therefore many consumers and medical professionals have less faith in their efficacy. However, some consumers choose to trust in these paradigms. It is not the role of the ARB to dictate which of these paradigms is correct.

“The ARB will ask itself, is it clear to the consumer what type of medicine they are taking/ what paradigm they are prescribing to? Are the claims for the product true in the context of that paradigm.

“The overall impression created by the advertisers website makes it very clear that the products are not allopathic. The advertiser has submitted a number of articles showing that the terms “immune boosting” is well established in the relevant paradigm. The Directorate therefore notes that the references to immune boosting are not, per se, misleading.”

The Times report
ARB decision


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