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ASA Adjudication on Health Innovations Ltd

Health Innovations Ltd

1 Brookhampton Lane
Kinteton
Warwickshire
CV3 0JA

Date:

11 January 2012

Media:

National press

Sector:

Health and beauty

Number of complaints:

2

Complaint Ref:

A10-117948

Ad

A national press ad, seen on 6 February 2010, for the LaserComb, a device for promoting hair growth, was headlined "Light therapy ended my thinning hair misery" and stated "A new product has been clinically proven to promote hair growth in both men and women …  New clinical trials have proven that the LaserComb promotes hair growth in female patients ...  Successful hair growth.  During clinical trials, 93% of patients experienced significant hair growth, with 90% experiencing an increase in the number of terminal (thick) hairs.  Shinier and thicker looking hair.   Individual results vary, but within the first 8 to 16 weeks, you should notice early general improvements to the appearance of your hair … These improvements should include shinier and thicker looking hair.  In general about 45% of LaserComb users see these early results in as little as 8 weeks of treatment.  Another 45% realize benefits from use within 8 to 16 weeks.  A small group of users take longer and may not experience noticeable results before 16 weeks of use.  Then, over the next few months, you may notice your hair gradually becoming fuller, stronger, denser looking. Over time, all users - men and women - usually notice progressively increasing benefits as they continue to use their LaserComb ...".

Issue

1.  One complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading because he did not believe that the product could provide effective results within the time stated, on the basis of information he had seen and his own partner's experience.

2. The ASA challenged whether the claim that the product had been clinically proven to promote hair growth in men and women could be substantiated.

3. A second complainant challenged whether the ad's claims misleadingly exaggerated the efficacy of the product.

CAP Code (Edition 11)

50.26

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1., 2. & 3. Health Innovations Ltd (Health Innovations) said that they had sought advice from the CAP Copy Advice team in 2007 with regard to the advertised product.  They said that the claims in the ad were based on the results of multi-million dollar clinical trials and not on one individual's particular experiences. They provided clinical evidence in support of the efficacy claims.

Assessment

1. Upheld

We acknowledged the complainant's experience, but noted that the ad stated that "Individual results vary". We therefore sought expert advice on the documentation and studies provided in support of the claims in the ad.  We understood that the evidence showed that any differences between the placebo and active treatment groups developed later in the trial than week 8, and considered that the claim "In general about 45% of LaserComb users see these early results in as little as 8 weeks of treatment" was unsubstantiated and therefore likely to mislead.  We also understood that, although the two clinical trials showed improvement in the number of hairs measured in 93% of subjects, the evidence provided did not clearly show that that figure was clinically significant in all or even most of the cases.  We understood that the percentages of men and women taking part in the active treatment who reported moderate improvement at 8 and 16 weeks were much lower, and though larger proportions of subjects receiving active treatment reported minimal improvement, the numbers were not significantly different to the level of minimal improvement reported by subjects in the placebo group.  

We therefore considered that the documentation in support of the claims was not sufficient to show that the product could provide effective results within the time stated in the ad.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 11) clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.26 (Health and beauty products and therapies).

2. Not upheld

We understood that the objectively measured data indicated a trend towards an overall increase in hair growth by week 26 in 93% of cases, although we also understood that the data did not suggest that the improvement was significant to the user in 93% of cases.  However, because we understood that the trials showed that most users had experienced an improvement in hair growth, and that some users had experienced an improvement not found in the placebo group, we concluded that the product had been clinically proven to promote hair growth in men and women.

On that point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 11) clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.26 (Health and beauty products and therapies), but did not find it in breach.

3. Upheld

Although we understood that the objectively measured data indicated a trend towards an overall increase in hair growth by week 26 in 93% of cases, we also noted the data did not suggest that the improvement was significant to the user in 93% of cases and that the differences between placebo and active treatment were not statistically significant.  

We noted that the ad made claims such as "A healthy thick head of hair", "shinier and thicker looking hair" and "you may notice your hair gradually becoming fuller, stronger, denser looking" and considered that the overall impression given by the ad was that users of the product would achieve a noticeably visible improvement to their hair.  We considered that the strong hair growth claims in the ad went further than the results indicated by the supporting data and, on that basis, did not consider that the supporting data was sufficient to show that the effects of the product on hair growth were statistically significant or that the results were visibly noticeable to most users.

Although we understood that the trials showed that most users had experienced an improvement in hair growth, and that some users had experienced an improvement not found in the placebo group, we considered that the ad's claims exaggerated the effects of the product and concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.

On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 11) clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.26 (Health and beauty products and therapies).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form.

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