ASA Non-broadcast Adjudication: Niagara Therapy (UK) Ltd
Niagara Therapy (UK) Ltd
2 Lumley Road
20 July 2005
Health and beauty
Cornwall, Tyne And Wear
A member of the public and Ecoflow plc objected to a leaflet, for physiotherapy products, headlined "Tick where it hurts"; it showed a drawing of a man with text circling his body that stated "RHEUMATIC & ARTHRITIC PAIN. TENSION. SLEEPLESSNESS". Text beneath stated "Are you one of those sufferers from rheumatic or similar aches and pains who think that they just have to put up with it? Then you should know about Niagara. Mrs S of Newcastle, a diabetic with arthritic pain says 'I use it twice a day ... I can now feel my feet and have sensation in my hands. It has helped me greatly. My pain is now a great deal less. Thank you.' Mrs W of Fife, a retired nurse suffering from arthritic pain says: 'I experienced relief after the first week of use ... What a marvellous feeling.' Niagara isn't a pill or an ointment or a drug and yet is extraordinarily simple to use: just apply it to the area of suffering. Niagara's unique range of physiotherapy products can help with a wide range of ailments associated with older age. Their range of chairs and beds, ideal for sufferers from Arthritis, High Blood Pressure and Back Pain - have been helping people to obtain positional relief from pain and restore a sense of new life, vigour and freedom to their lives. You can actually feel the aches and pains easing by the moment. NIAGARA MAY HELP YOU: Relieve Rheumatic pain. Ease sore, aching muscles. Ease high and low back pains wherever they occur. Reduce pain and spasm in non nerve-entrapment back pain sufferers. Induce a feeling of relaxation. Sleep better if you have difficulty going to sleep. Improve joints and relieve pain where there is tension and muscle spasm. Maintain the blood circulation to the hands and feet. Obtain a general feeling of well being. Obtain positional relied for Arthritis pain and reduce raised blood pressure through the use of their chairs and beds. Improvements in conditions like these have been proven in published medical research. TO EVERY SUFFERER FROM STIFFNESS OR PAIN - ARTHRITIC, RHEUMATIC, BACK, IN THE JOINTS, WHEREVER - WE ARE PREPARED TO PUT OURSELVES ON TRIAL- FREE!". The reverse of the mailing stated "ARTHRITIC PAIN. RHEUMATISM. BACK PAIN. TENSION. SLEEPLESSNESS. Why put up with the pain? Ask the many thousands who have written ... 'I'm so much better than I was ... I would certainly recommend it ..." Mr A.P OF LIVERPOOL. '... even after the first few uses movement became much better, especially when getting out of bed" MRS I.H OF PORTISHEAD. '... I cannot believe the difference ... the pain has lessened so much, I'm sleeping much better ..." MRS B.B OF PONTEFRACT. ' I bless the day I sent for the free trial" MR J.P OF OXFORD.
1. The complainants challenged the efficacy of the product for relieving rheumatic, back and joint pain.
2. The Authority challenged whether the advertisement, and especially the testimonials, made clear enough the nature of the products for which the claims were made.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
1. Complaints upheld
The advertisers sent a booklet, entitled "THE CYCLOID VIBRATION PRINCIPLE", which summarised the research carried out into the efficacy of Cycloid Vibration Therapy (CVT) since 1949, a selection of the scientific articles listed and summarised in the booklet, a letter dated 2002 from the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) about the medical claims in the advertisers' leaflet, and a letter from a rehabilitation doctor in the Netherlands, which reported on the pain relief of 50-60 patients mainly suffering from Fibromyalgia and complaining of pain.
The advertisers said the advertisement offered a free trial of their therapy, which included the use of chairs, beds and hand-held devices. They said the positional adjustments of the chairs and beds, combined with the Cycloid Vibration action integral to all their products, could help relieve rheumatic, back and joint pain. The advertisers explained that Cycloid Vibration differed from standard vibration, because it was created by a three-dimensional circular movement which caused the energy produced by vibration to penetrate gently and deeply into the body, relieving aches and pains, while reducing the risk of muscle and tissue damage that could result from standard vibration therapy. They pointed out that, although they believed the evidence they had sent proved the efficacy of CVT for relieving rheumatic, back and joint pain, the sub-heading in the advertisement, "NIAGARA MAY HELP YOU", after which the various conditions were listed, was carefully worded to avoid the implication that CVT offered a cure for conditions; they said the advertisement referred to improvements in conditions and did not offer to cure or resolve them.
The Authority took expert advice and understood that the evidence submitted by the advertisers did not prove the efficacy of CVT for relieving rheumatic, back or joint pain; the expert said the advertisers had presented no valid scientific evidence that CVT administered through their beds, chairs and pads offered pain relief other than what might be attributed to a well-supported posture, or positional relief. He was concerned that the scientific evidence sent by the advertisers was very old, poorly conducted and much of it had not been submitted to peer review prior to publication, which lessened its authority and scientific validity. The expert was also concerned that the advertisers had not sent randomised controlled trials of the treatments offered in CVT.
The Authority considered that the advertisement, particularly the testimonials and the list of conditions under the heading "NIAGARA MAY HELP YOU", implied the advertised products offered more than temporary positional relief from the conditions listed. Because the advertisers' evidence did not prove the Cycloid Vibration action of their products provided relief from rheumatic, back and joint pain, the Authority concluded that the advertisement was misleading. It told the advertisers to amend the advertisement to remove the implication that the advertised products offered more than temporary positional relief from the conditions listed until they could provide rigorous scientific trials to prove the efficacy of CVT.
The advertisers said the advertisement made the nature of the products clear; they said the testimonials related to the products advertised. They asserted that they only used conservatively worded testimonials to avoid creating the misleading impression that CVT offered a cure for conditions.
The Authority noted the advertisement referred to the advertisers' "range of chairs and beds" but also stated "Niagara isn't a pill or ointment or drug and yet is extraordinarily simple to use; just apply it to the area of suffering". It considered that the testimonials, which stated "I can now feel my feet and have sensation in my hands ... my pain is now a great deal less", "I experienced relief after the first week of use", "I'm so much better than I was" and "... even after the first few uses movement became much better ...", did not make clear the nature of the products for which the claims were made and implied their use had long-term cumulative benefits or offered a cure for conditions. The Authority concluded that the advertisement, especially the testimonials, did not make sufficiently clear, or distinguish between, the nature of the products for which the claims were made. It was concerned that the advertisers had been repeatedly told by the Authority to amend the advertisement and the testimonials to make clear the exact nature of the advertised products for which claims were made and the temporary nature of the positional relief provided by the chairs and beds. The Authority told the advertisers to amend the advertisement and told them to consult the CAP Copy Advice team before advertising again.