Claims on www.thechrysaliseffect.com, which advertised a recovery programme for sufferers of ME, stated "Attention: Sufferers of ME, CFS or Fibromyalgia Finally, A Guided Map That Steps You Through All 8 Areas Essential For Your Complete Recovery From These Life-Debilitating, Fatigue Conditions Get The Crucial Support You Need To Permanently Get Your Life Back". Further text in the ad read “The Chrysalis Effect program was borne of my passion to get this information into the hands of others currently suffering through these conditions, and help them cut short the long journey that I went through to recovery. Before we go any further, I want to be completely honest with you There is No magic bullet There is No claim here of a ‘cure’ There is No quick fix What we are offering here is a Guided Map to your recovery. Our program takes 6 - 9 months minimum. I know if you are like I was, you will want your Life back NOW! I wish I had a magic wand! It is a step-by-step journey that will guide you through all 8 elements essential to recovery".
The complainant, who understood that there was no cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (formerly ME), challenged whether the claim that the advertiser could enable customers to achieve "complete recovery" was misleading and could be substantiated.
The Chrysalis Effect Ltd said their organisation was founded and run by people who had a medical diagnosis and had made a full recovery. They said they had been working with sufferers for five years and could provide testimonials from users of the Chrysalis Effect programme who had regained their health after receiving a medical diagnosis. They maintained people could and had recovered from those conditions and they were currently undergoing an evaluation process for the NHS to see whether the recovery programme could be offered to patients at GP stage. Chrysalis Effect provided a report of the recovery programme, which included an example Symptom Impact Questionnaire form, designed to monitor patient progress, and four patients' results.
The ASA understood that the Chrysalis Effect was a support programme, which included videos, audios, downloadable content with meditation and relaxation techniques, advice, including from nutritionists and energy therapists and access to other online material, including a supporters’ forum, blog, news updates and inspirational stories from sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
While we noted Chrysalis Effect provided an example of a self-reporting questionnaire, including the results recorded by four patients, which recorded some improvement in the symptoms experienced by the participants, we were concerned that they had not provided robust evidence, such as clinical trials or studies, to support their claims that the programme would enable consumers to achieve "complete recovery" from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Chrysalis Effect maintained they were in the process of collating evidence to substantiate the claims, however, we reminded them of their obligations under the CAP Code to hold appropriate evidence to substantiate claims prior to publication. We considered that testimonials from individual sufferers did not constitute a suitably robust body of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Chrysalis Effect programme in offering "complete recovery" from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Because we had not seen any evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of the Chrysalis Effect programme for treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, we concluded the claims were therefore misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code 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 ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Chrysalis Effect Ltd to ensure they held substantiation before making similar efficacy claims for the programme.