A paid for Facebook ad for Redee Patch, seen in June 2019, featured a photo of a man with a flushed face. Text stated "Alcohol Flush held us back from enjoying our nights out, so we created Redee Patch. We're putting an end to Alcohol Flush. Healthy, effective natural solution. Full refund if it doesn't work. Made with vitamins, antioxidants and plant extracts". Further text stated "Solution to Alcohol Flush!".
1. The complainant, who believed the ad encouraged excessive drinking, challenged whether it was socially irresponsible.
2. The ASA challenged whether the claims that the product could prevent or reduce flushing as a result of drinking alcohol were misleading and could be substantiated.
1. Redee Solutions LLC said that alcohol flush reaction did not happen after excessive drinking, but rather occurred in some people after consuming even a very small amount of alcohol ‒ as little as a few sips. They said their customer base could greatly benefit from the additional support of antioxidants and vitamins to help support healthy liver enzyme activity and process alcohol and its metabolites in a healthy way. They said they did not encourage excessive drinking, and their website and all their packaging reminded their customers to drink responsibly.
2. Redee Solutions said they did not claim that the patch could reduce or eliminate redness. They only stated that their ingredients had been found to help detoxify alcohol’s metabolites and help support healthy liver enzyme activity. They provided links to a number of studies.
The ASA noted that “alcohol flush” in the ad was intended to refer to a reaction linked to alcohol intolerance, which was genetic and prevented the body from breaking down alcohol efficiently. Alcohol intolerance resulted in some people experiencing skin redness and other symptoms after consuming even a very small amount of alcohol, and was more prevalent among some ethnic groups than others. We considered that many consumers who saw the ad would understand that was what it was referring to.
The ad presented the Redee Patch as a “Solution to Alcohol Flush” and implied that its use would allow consumers to drink alcohol without suffering from the effects of alcohol intolerance. We considered that it was irresponsible to encourage people who could potentially have an adverse physical reaction to even small amounts of alcohol to consume it. In addition, the ad did not refer to alcohol intolerance, and redness was a common reaction to excessive drinking even for those without an intolerance. Many consumers who saw the ad would understand that it referred to flushing caused by excessive alcohol consumption, rather than any consumption by those with an intolerance. In that light, the ad implied that the Redee Patch could counter the effects of excessive drinking, which could encourage consumers to consume alcohol in an irresponsible manner. On that basis, we considered that the ad was socially irresponsible and therefore breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.1 (Alcohol).
The ad stated “Alcohol Flush held us back from enjoying our nights out, so we created Redee Patch. We’re putting an end to Alcohol Flush” and “Solution to Alcohol Flush!”. We considered that consumers would understand this to mean that the patch was effective in preventing, reducing or even eliminating redness caused by alcohol intolerance or otherwise by alcohol consumption. We therefore expected to see evidence to substantiate those claims.
As the ad appeared to be aimed at a general audience, we expected to see evidence of the product’s efficacy in an otherwise healthy population. Eleven of the studies provided by Redee Solutions were in abstract form only, and we were therefore unable to assess them in full. Redee Solutions also provided nine full studies in support of their claims. Those included four studies assessing the effects of different ingredients included in the patch on the processing of alcohol in mice or rats. Another study assessed the effect of one of the ingredients on rats dosed with paracetamol. We did not consider that tests on animals alone were sufficient to demonstrate the efficacy of the product in humans.
Furthermore, none of the studies tested the Redee Patch product itself. In most of them, the intervention was administered orally or via injection, which was not reflective of the claimed mode of delivery of Redee Patch. Neither did any of the studies measure skin redness as an outcome.
A controlled study of the effect of alpha lipoic acid on human subjects with acute coronary syndrome was not relevant to substantiating the claims in question, as it did not measure the effect of the substance following alcohol consumption. Furthermore, the population was not reflective of the general audience at which the ad was aimed.
A review of studies on silymarin (milk thistle extract) did not provide details of its methodology, including inclusion and exclusion criteria. In addition, it analysed studies on the effect of the substance in populations with various serious health conditions or severe poisoning, which were not relevant to substantiating the claims in the ad. The authors acknowledged that there was a lack of studies evaluating relevant health outcomes linked to properties identified in in vitro and animal testing. Two additional studies examined vitamin B1 deficiency in alcoholics and the effect of vitamin supplementation on chronic disease prevention. They did not assess any intervention on the effects of alcohol and were not relevant to substantiating the claims in the ad. Taking into account the evidence provided, none of which assessed the efficacy of the Redee Patch itself or that of a product with a similar mode of delivery, we concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Redee Patch LLC to ensure their advertising was socially responsible, by not encouraging consumers to drink excessively, or to drink alcohol if they had an alcohol intolerance. We also told them not to state or imply that the Redee Patch could prevent, reduce or eliminate redness caused by alcohol consumption, unless they held adequate evidence to support their claims.