Complementary and alternative medicines

Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) can play a significant role, especially when taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Despite the potential benefits of such therapies, marketers need to mindful of the fact that there are evidential standards to consider.

Chiropractic/Osteopathy – Adjusting your claims

Both of these therapies are regulated by statute (by the GCC and the GOsC respectively) but are still subject to our rules on evidence. Whilst ASA/CAP evidence reviews mean that many claims are automatically accepted in ads for Chiropractic and Osteopathy, registered practitioners should be aware that advertising claims that go beyond this will need to be supported by evidence (Rule 12.1 CAP Code).

Following an ASA review set out here and here, due to the lack of available evidence, claims about the benefits of these therapies to conditions or symptoms relating to specific patient groups like babies and pregnant women (such as colic, or pelvic pain) are not permitted in ads unless the marketer holds robust clinical trial evidence.

Homeopathic medicine and advertising claims - Less is more

Homeopathic medicines are subject to medicines legislation and products must be registered in the UK (rule 12.20 CAP Code). Ads are also required to include mandatory information and treatment claims are restricted. For more information, marketers should review Appendix 2 from the MHRA’s Blue Guide.

Because the principles of homeopathy are not yet generally accepted, there are fewer claims permitted for homeopathy as a therapy more generally. As such, claims for the therapy should be restricted to the holistic nature of the therapy or to subjective sensorial responses to treatment. This CAP Advice explains the position further.

Other therapies – Get a feeling for acceptable claims

The Advertising Codes require that marketers hold robust documentary evidence, most likely in the form of trials on humans, before making objective claims about the benefits of CAM therapies.

There are innumerable amazing therapies available. It may be that a therapy is less well-known, meaning that robust clinical studies are not available. This means that objective treatment claims will not be permitted in ads. But fear not, marketers can still make claims about the hands-on nature of the therapy or its subjective or sensorial benefits. After all, these therapies provide great comfort for patients who often feel that conventional medicine alone doesn’t take account of them as a whole person.

Our AdviceOnline entries cover a number of different therapies – please do check to see if your treatment has an entry, as it will give you a good idea of currently acceptable claims. For bespoke advice on your non-broadcast ads, our Copy Advice team are also here to help.

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