ASA Adjudication on Lloyds Pharmacy Ltd
Lloyds Pharmacy Ltd
Walsgrave Business Park
2 December 2009
Health and beauty
Number of complaints:
Mccann Erickson Communications House Ltd
A TV ad, for a light therapy device, included a voice-over that stated “Hay fever season’s here again. But here’s something you might not have tried before, the Lloyds Pharmacy hay fever reliever. It’s been shown to help reduce symptoms like your runny nose and itchy eyes … Just pop it up your nose for a couple of minutes two or three times a day and start making the most of your summer”.
A viewer challenged whether the claims in the ad were misleading and could be substantiated.
BCAP TV Code
Lloyds Pharmacy Ltd (Lloyds) said they had commissioned an independent clinical trial on the device, which concluded that it " ... significantly reduced the main symptoms of hay fever". They said that in their stores the product was called an allergy reliever. However, following advice from Clearcast, they had referred to it as a "hay fever reliever" in the ad because the trial results supported clinical indications including hay fever. They said the trial was submitted to Clearcast and reviewed by their consultant who was satisfied that the product had been shown to ... reduce symptoms like your runny nose and itchy eyes ...". However, Clearcast suggested that the wording of the claim should be amended to ... has been shown to help ..." to ensure the language was relevant to the viewer. Lloyds submitted the trial; they said they believed they had obtained adequate objective evidence to support the claim and therefore the ad was not misleading.
Clearcast said they did agree an amendment to the claim in the ad that more accurately reflected the substantiation that had been reviewed by their consultant physician; they endorsed Lloyds view that the claim was supported.
The ASA noted the ad stated the device was effective in helping to " ... reduce symptoms like your runny nose and itchy eyes ... " and, when used for a couple of minutes two or three times a day, meant consumers could " ... start making the most of [their] summer". We considered that was likely to be interpreted to suggest the effects would last throughout the summer pollen season. We noted the study submitted by Lloyds and sought expert advice.
Our expert said the study came from a credible source and was published in an internationally recognised peer reviewed journal. However, because the study was carried out outside of the pollen season, it was difficult to extrapolate the results to that scenario. He considered the method used was a limited way of mimicking the real conditions of the hay fever season, in particular because a single dose of pollen was delivered to the nose against a background of no previous pollen exposure, whereas the effect of pollen was likely to build up in a real situation, and because conjunctival exposure that occurred during a real pollen season was not recreated in the study and therefore meant any effect on eye symptoms would be difficult to interpret. He was also concerned that only high doses of pollen were administered. No information was available on the effect of the device on low or medium pollen count days. However, in general, the results of studies on other treatments for allergic rhinitis were often much more marked when disease was at its most severe, with a more limited effect in milder cases. There was also no information available on whether the effect would persist beyond 14 days whereas our expert considered that in a real scenario, for tree and grass pollen season, the device would require regular use over an extended period of four to five months. The results were also confined only to adults.
The expert said the study did show a reduction in sneezing, runny nose and eyes and itchy palate but was flawed to the extent that there was no baseline assessment, instead it was only subjective reporting of the effect of pollen on symptoms, which made it difficult to interpret whether light therapy had really altered the immune response. He was concerned that it was not clear what subjects responses to pollen were prior to intervention with the device and therefore it was difficult to compare any later change in response to pollen. He said that the study had shown that the device did not have an effect on other symptoms of hay fever, including itchy eyes, nose and throat, therefore, the claim in the ad which related to itchy eyes was not supported. He also pointed out that the study made clear that compliance with the treatment was not ideal as it was measured by diary card and interview only, relying on the honesty of the participants. Our expert said the study, like previous research, suggested that light therapy was worth further investigation but the conclusion was limited by some flaws in the methodology and by it being conducted outside of hay fever season, thereby not reflecting real-life circumstances.
We noted that our expert had raised considerable doubt in relation to the claims, raising questions about the study, such as the lack of an objective measure on which to base its findings and that its replication of real-life circumstances was limited for several reasons. These included the fact that there was no information on the effect of the device on symptoms on low or medium pollen count days or on its effect beyond 14 days. In particular, we noted the study did not show the device to be effective on "itchy eyes", as claimed in the ad. We concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1.1 (Misleading advertising) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)