The ASA and CAP have seen marketers offer a variety of products and therapies to either “treat” or “relieve the symptoms of” hay fever and associated conditions. Whatever is being advertised…
Don’t advertise a “cure”
Claims that a product can “cure”, “prevent”, “fight” or “treat” an allergy are likely to be considered medicinal claims and making those types of claims for an unauthorised product risks breaking rule 12.11.
Similarly, devices which claim to “treat” or “prevent” allergies or allergic reactions by eliminating allergens, such as washing machines or vacuum cleaners, could amount to claims for a medical device. Medical devices need to be certified with an appropriate CE marking from a Notified Body.
Marketers ought to keep in mind that disease prevention claims for a food are also unacceptable. In 2014, the ASA ruled that an ad for a food supplement fell foul of rule 15.6.2, because it considered the claim “Your natural way to prevent springtime sneezes” implied that the product would be understood to prevent hay fever (PharmaNord UK Ltd).
If a marketer is promoting a herbal remedy, just like any other medicine, it would need to be licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and any claims would need to be limited to what appears on the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC). Ads for herbal medicines also need to include mandatory information required by the MHRA’s Blue Guide.
The ASA has looked into claims that complementary therapies such as acupressure (SCD Ltd), acupuncture (University College London Hospitals t/a the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, 12 June 2013), The Bowen Technique (Howard Bult, February 2012) and homeopathy (British Institute for Allergy and Environmental Therapy, March 2011) can treat hay fever and other allergies but has yet to see robust, persuasive evidence in support of their efficacy.
On the subject of efficacy
Claims to “relieve the symptoms of” or “help reduce the symptoms of” are unlikely to be considered medicinal but nevertheless marketers will be expected to produce evidence of efficacy, if challenged, in order to comply with rule 3.7 (Lloyds Pharmacy, December 2009; Health Innovations, October 2009).