Claims on www.betterbeingtherapies.co.uk for reiki which stated "Are you bogged down by poor health? Are you stuck in a cycle of stress? Are aches and pains preventing you from getting into shape? If the answer is yes, A Better Being can offer a helping hand. Maybe you have frequent bouts of [...], irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hay fever, indigestion, ... repetitive strain injury (RSI) or .... Perhaps you're suffering from ... headaches, asthma, eczema, ... poor circulation, rheumatism, sinusitis ...".
The complainant challenged whether the implied claims that reiki could treat IBS, hay fever, indigestion, RSI, headaches, asthma, eczema, poor circulation, rheumatism and sinusitis were misleading and could be substantiated
A Better Being provided four website links which included two articles written about reiki and two websites that included links to clinical trials. They also provided links to a cancer charity's website which discussed how reiki could be of benefit to cancer sufferers experiencing side effects during treatment and could help to improve their general well-being and relaxation.
The ASA noted that one of the websites appeared to summarise the current, available research into reiki and was intended to collate all available, published literature into reiki research. While that website included a number of links to published trials, they were only abstracts of the trials and none of them looked at reiki and its effect on the conditions listed on the Better Being website.
The other website included links about seven completed clinical trials but again, provided links to only the abstracts of the trials and none of them looked at the effect of reiki on the listed conditions. That website also included information about two trials which were still recruiting for participants; we considered those two trials would not be suitable evidence because both had yet to be completed and neither looked at the conditions mentioned on the Better Being website.
One of the articles discussed clinical trials involving reiki on chronic illnesses, pain relief and the effect reiki can have on the blood, while the other looked at reiki and its increasing use amongst healthcare workers in the US. The first article did not explain which chronic illnesses the research had looked at and so we were unable to determine whether it looked at reiki in relation to the chronic illnesses listed on the Better Being website, such as asthma. The second article did not look at reiki in relation to the conditions listed on the Better Being website.
While we acknowledged that clinical trials had been carried out using reiki, we considered A Better Being needed to hold evidence that showed reiki could help treat the conditions listed on their website. That evidence should take the form of appropriate blinded and controlled randomised clinical trials, which we needed to see in full to assess whether or not they substantiated the specific claims made. Because we had not seen any such evidence, we concluded the claims had not been substantiated and were misleading.
The claims breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.
Objective claims must be backed by evidence, if relevant consisting of trials conducted on people. Substantiation will be assessed on the basis of the available scientific knowledge.
Medicinal or medical claims and indications may be made for a medicinal product that is licensed by the MHRA, VMD or under the auspices of the EMA, or for a CE-marked medical device. A medicinal claim is a claim that a product or its constituent(s) can be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or can treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition, whether of body or mind, in human beings.
Secondary medicinal claims made for cosmetic products as defined in the appropriate European legislation must be backed by evidence. These are limited to any preventative action of the product and may not include claims to treat disease. (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The claims must no longer appear. We told A Better Being not to make efficacy claims for reiki unless they held suitable and adequate evidence to substantiate them.