Background

Misleading Advertising: Teddington Homeopathy is in breach of the UK Advertising Standards Code for making unproven efficacy claims for CEASE therapy.

The ASA investigated whether health-related efficacy claims “CEASE Therapy was developed […] to help autistic children.  Dr Smits helped over 300 children […].  While Dr. Smits methods were originally designed for children with autism […] beneficial in other conditions including ADHD and ADD.” and claims "homeopathy-for-autism" and "homeopathy-and-autism-faq" in the visible URLs of links to external websites on the website www.teddingtonhomeopathy.com were misleading and could be substantiated and whether the ad discouraged essential treatment for autism, a condition for which medical supervision should be sought.

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.

While Teddington Homeopathy amended some sections of its website, some of the claims that were the subject of the ASA ruling continued to appear.  The CAP Compliance team therefore contacted Teddington Homeopathy and requested that the relevant changes be made to its website www.teddingtonhomeopathy.com.  Although the ASA upheld the complaint against Teddington Homeopathy’s advertising, and despite repeated requests for an assurance of future compliance, Teddington Homeopathy has refused to remove the problematic claims from its website www.teddingtonhomeopathy.com.

Because of Teddington Homeopathy’s continued non-compliance, we took the decision to place its details on this section of the ASA website on 27 August 2015.  These details shall remain in place until such time as Teddington Homeopathy has removed or amended the claims on its website www.teddingtonhomeopathy.com to ensure compliance with the CAP Code.

Summary of ASA ruling

Summary of ASA ruling

A website for Teddington Homeopathy, www.teddingtonhomeopathy.com, featured a page headed "CEASE".  Text stated "CEASE Therapy was developed by Dutch physician Tinus Smits M.D. who was looking for a way to help autistic children.  Dr Smits helped over 300 children prior to his death in 2010. Information about his work and several of his cases were published in 'Autism Beyond Despair' in 2010.  While Dr. Smits methods were originally designed for children with autism, he and those that he trained have found CEASE Therapy to be beneficial in other conditions including ADHD and ADD.  CEASE Therapy involves the gentle removal of toxins from the body using a form of Homeopathy known as Isotherapy. Orthomolecular support is offered in the form of nutritional supplements to nourish the body and restore intestinal function. Classical homeopathic remedies are also prescribed to support the individual".  The page also contained links to external websites containing "homeopathy-for-autism" and "homeopathy-and-autism-faq" in the visible URLS, and a testimonial headed "The following testimonial is from a parent of a child currently receiving CEASE Therapy", which described improvements seen in a child diagnosed with autism.  Stated beneath this text was "This testimonial represents only the personal opinions of people who have come to me for homeopathy and does not represent evidence".

The complainant challenged whether the claims that CEASE therapy could treat autism were misleading and could be substantiated, and whether the ad discouraged essential treatment for autism, a condition for which medical supervision should be sought.

While the ASA acknowledged that the web page included information about the history of CEASE therapy, it noted that the advertiser provided the therapy in question and therefore considered that the page constituted marketing for the purposes of the CAP Code.  The page contained references to Tinus Smits' experiences with "helping" patients with autism as well as other references to the benefits of CEASE therapy for autism, including material within the testimonial.  The ASA considered that visitors to the website would understand the claims in the testimonial as factual, regardless of the disclaimer, and that the claims within the testimonial would therefore be understood as relating to the objective benefits of CEASE therapy.  The ASA considered that the ad made claims for the efficacy of CEASE therapy in treating autism.

While the ASA welcomed Teddington Homeopathy’s decision to remove the testimonial, it considered that the information about Tinus Smits and the URLs implied a benefit for homeopathy and CEASE therapy for autism, and that the intention of CEASE therapy was to treat autism.  Although advertisers may provide information about the history of a therapy, care should be taken not to make unsupported claims for the treatment when describing this background.

The Code also stated that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, and that this included offering specific advice on, or treatment for, such conditions unless that advice or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.  The ASA considered that autism was a condition for which medical supervision should be sought and 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, concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 and 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).


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