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.

Advertisers wanting to refer to themselves as “Dr”, “a doctor” or similar, should take care not to imply that they hold a general medical qualification if they do not. The need for clarity is greatest when marketers are making health-related claims and the ASA has taken the tough line on marketers calling themselves ‘Dr’ in the context of health. The safest and simplest way to avoid confusing consumers is that if they do not possess a general medical qualification, advertisers should not call themselves “Dr”.

In 2013 the ASA upheld a complaint about a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner who used the prefix “Dr” throughout his website. The ASA noted that the advertiser had been awarded a bachelors degree in medicine and had been awarded further qualifications from the Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China which allowed him to practise. Regardless, they considered that the repeated use of "Dr" throughout the website implied that Mr Jin was a medical doctor who was currently registered with the GMC and practising allopathic medicine. Because that was not the case they concluded the ad breached the Code (Dr Jin, 4 September 2013).

Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine or other alternative therapies should not call themselves “Dr” unless they possess a general medical qualification and are registered with the GMC.

Also see: Chinese Herbal Medicine or Traditional Herbal Medicine.

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