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.

Thread veins, also known as telangiectasia or spider veins, occur when capillaries (the smallest of blood vessels) become permanently dilated and rupture, spreading blood to other capillaries and leaving a fine red or blue tree-like appearance just under the skin. They can be almost anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face, usually on the cheeks or nose, and the legs.

What is microsclerotherapy?

Microsclerotherapy is a treatment to reduce the appearance of thread veins.

CAP understands that the therapy commonly consists of injections of a sclerosing solution, which is a prescription-only medicine. As such, the treatment may not be advertised to the public (rule 12.12).

If marketers only offer a prescription-only treatment(s) for thread veins, they may be able to refer to a “consultation for thread veins” provided the ad does not otherwise refer to or imply treatment.

What about clinic websites?

There are some exceptions for websites, principally, those for clinics that offer consultations and POM treatments where the prescription-only product or treatment can be referenced, provided the primary ad (the homepage) relates to the consultation rather than the specific treatment.

Such websites may provide information about a POM in the context of the product being a possible treatment option following that consultation, if it is deemed suitable by the practitioner.

No reference to a POM should be made on a sponsored ad link, a Home page of a website, logos, testimonials, hover text, and any small print at the bottom of a Home page should not refer to POMs or directly link consumers to a page where it is referred to.

What information can be provided?

Where information about a POM can be included on a website following the information about the consultation, the ASA is likely to expect the information to be balanced and factual.

The ASA is likely to consider that any claims used should accord with the wording found on the patient information leaflets (PIL’s) or the information found in the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC’s) that accompanies the medicines licence. There should be no promotion, whether direct or otherwise, of the POM or of the service as a means to obtain the POM.

Marketers should not include information in their ads that POMs can be used to treat areas other than those areas for which the product is licenced

What about price lists?

A marketer may include the prescription treatment in a price list but should not include product claims or actively encourage viewers to choose a product based on the price (for example, a discount offer).   A price list which references a prescription-only medicine or treatment should only be presented after information about the consultation has already been presented. Consumers should not be able to navigate directly to the price list.

Can marketers use health professionals and celebrities?

While only suitably qualified health professionals should administer the POMs treatments, using health professionals or celebrities (including those who have influencer because of their celebrity) to endorse the product breaches rule 12.18 of the CAP Code  

Can marketers use before and after photos?

Before and after photographs are likely to be understood as a claim for efficacy and therefore a promotional claim, which is not permitted for prescription-only medicines and treatments.

What about other treatments for thread veins?

If marketers also offer other treatments for thread veins (alongside microsclerotherapy) which do not include a prescription-only medicine or treatment, marketers may be able to advertise the “treatment of thread veins” more generally.

They may not name directly or describe the treatment in any way that would imply microsclerotherapy.

Advertising claims about non-medicinal treatments for thread veins will need to be supported by robust documentary evidence in the form of clinical trials.

If the product is a cosmetic which covers the appearance of the veins (such as a foundation) the ad should be clear that the effect is a temporary cosmetic camouflage/cover-up.  

See also: Prescription-only medicines and CAP Guidance on Substantiation for health, beauty and slimming claims.  



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