Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
This section should be read in conjunction with the entry on Health: Therapies (General)
ASA/CAP position on Homeopathy
We understand that this discipline works on the principle of treating like with like, with the active ingredient often diluted heavily in water. The ASA and CAP have yet to be provided with robust evidence to show that remedies lacking in pharmacologically active molecules can produce clinical effects.
Do not make claims to treat medical conditions unless medically qualified and/or without robust evidence of efficacy
Some homeopaths may be medically qualified and therefore regulated by the General Medical Council. Those who are medically qualified may make claims about treating conditions but would need to make clear that efficacy is due only to conventional treatments unless they hold robust clinical evidence to support claims of efficacy for individual homeopathic treatments.
In 2015, the ASA considered a website ad for a homeopath offering CEASE therapy for individuals with autism. The ad included a testimonial which suggested ‘improvements’ in a child diagnosed with autism following homeopathic treatment. The ASA therefore considered that the ad made claims for the efficacy of CEASE therapy in treating autism. In the absence of evidence to demonstrate that CEASE therapy could treat autism and that any treatment was carried out by a suitably qualified healthcare professional, the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the Code (Teddington Homeopathy, 22 July 2015). Following further concerns being raised, in 2018 the ASA issued an enforcement notice against 150 CEASE therapists operating in the UK. Any marketer offering CEASE should take careful notice of the position in this 2019 ASA news story which explains the work the ASA and CAP had undertaken in this area.
Where practitioners are registered with a body that has appropriate accreditation in place, such as that provided by the Professional Standards Authority Voluntary Register Scheme, it is possible that the ASA might consider such credentials to be appropriate evidence of suitable qualification for the purposes of CAP Code rule 12.2. However, it should be noted that this has not been established through an ASA ruling and marketers should proceed with caution.
Holding evidence of suitable qualifications for treatments does not absolve marketers of their obligation to hold robust clinical evidence to support efficacy claims.
In July 2007 the General Media Panel considered the application of rule 12.3. It concluded that complementary and alternative therapy practitioners offering significant or invasive treatments should encourage consumers to take independent medical advice before committing themselves to the treatment.
Use broad claims about homeopathy.
Claims describing a therapy session such as “Homeopathy is a holistic approach” and “practitioners work closely with their clients” are likely to be acceptable, as are more general statements that some clients consider homeopathy to be comforting, calming or soothing. Claims describing the popularity of homeopathy are also likely to be acceptable so long as they can be supported by evidence (Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century, 3 July 2013).
The Guidance for Advertisers of Homeopathic Services gives further examples of claims about homeopathy that are likely to be acceptable.
Avoid direct or implied efficacy claims in testimonials
If a testimonial includes direct or indirect efficacy claims, then this will be subject to the same rules as any other claim. In other words, where efficacy has not been established, a testimonial should not be used to imply that it has. Patient testimonials alone are unlikely to substantiate objective claims about the efficacy of a product or therapy.