The leaflet entitled “Homeopathy in Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Post-Natal year” which was handed out at a ‘Pregnancy and baby fair’ referred to the following:
“What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a gently, natural system of healing suitable for everyone including pregnant women and even new-born infants. Homeopathy focuses on you as an individual treating your specific physical, emotional and mental symptoms by stimulating your body’s own healing power.
How does it work?
Homeopathy works by using a small dose of a naturally occurring substance in remedy format to help stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal. This substance will be chosen to suit you as an individual, taking into account all of your symptoms as well as general traits and likes/dislikes.
What Attracts People to Homeopathy?
Homeopathic remedies are particularly appealing to people who prefer a natural approach to health. They are safe to take, have no side effects, and can be taken at the same time as other prescribed medication…”
What can it do?
Many conditions can be addressed effectively by Homeopathy, whether they are the consequence of accidents, short term illnesses or chronic conditions. It would be impossible to list them all, but some of the more common ailments encountered are: stress and anxiety related states, insomnia, depression, hormonal imbalances including PMS, period problems, infertility and pregnancy related conditions, post-natal complaints, menopause, children’s illnesses, urinary tract disorders, digestive and bowel problems, asthma and other respiratory tract illnesses, rheumatism, arthritis, eczema and other skin conditions. Also emotional disturbances, following miscarriage can be helped effectively.”
The complainant queried the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies and the substantiation available to back their effectiveness. He queried the serious health conditions referenced in the advertisement and the claim that homeopathic remedies could be used to address them effectively, without side effects. The complainant considered that in opting to use homeopathic remedies as opposed to medical treatments, people could be putting their health or even their lives at risk.
The advertisers said that commonly used homeopathic remedies were fully licensed for over the counter sales by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)(1) and were freely available in pharmacies and health stores across the country. They said their presence at the Pregnancy and Baby Fair was for information purposes only, they did not sell products at these events. They said they simply provided the public with good information supplied by their registered homeopaths, all of whom had completed four years of study in homeopathy and completed their registration programme.
They said the ISH was recognised by the Government as the self-regulatory body for homeopathy in Ireland.
The advertisers said that there were homeopathic hospitals and NHS/private practices staffed by medical doctors in the UK and many other countries. They also provided links to research carried out in other countries on the subject of homeopathy.
In response to a query from the ASAI on the status of the ISH, the Department of Health said that at the present time there was no statutory regulation of complementary therapists. They said the report of the Working Group on the Regulation of Complementary Therapists which addressed the need for regulation was published by the Department of Health in 2005. They said that Department policy had been informed by the Report concerned and while considering it, the Department of Health had supported greater voluntary self-regulation of complementary therapists. However, currently, the area is unregulated and the ISH has no official status.
(1) As per HPRA, there are two schemes by which homeopathic medicines can be licensed in Ireland, set out below:
1. Registration under the Simplified Registration Scheme, which refers to Homeopathic Medicines without therapeutic indications and in a form and dosage, which do not present risk to the patient; e.g. oral tablets with very dilute active ingredients with no reference to patient symptoms.
2. Authorisation under the National Rules Scheme (NRS) which refers to homeopathic medicines with therapeutic claims for mild self-limiting conditions (Conditions that do not require the intervention of a registered medical practitioner for diagnostic purposes or for prescription or for monitoring of treatment).
HPRA advised the ASAI that currently under this scheme (NRS) there is only one licensed product for the treatment of colds and flu like symptoms. All other homeopathic products currently licensed in Ireland are under the Simplified Registration Scheme, with no indications.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. They noted the serious medical conditions referenced within the advertising and the fact that the advertisers had not provided substantiation (including the results of robust and reputable trials on human subjects) for the claim that such conditions could “be addressed effectively by Homeopathy” or that “Homeopathic remedies are safe to take, have no side effects, and can be taken at the same time as other prescribed medication.”
The Committee noted that the Code provides that “specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment” for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought should not be offered in advertising, unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment is conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.
For the purposes of the Code health professionals are considered suitably qualified if they are regulated by a statutory body recognised by the Irish State. The Committee noted that the Department of Health had confirmed that there was no statutory regulation of complementary therapists.
As relevant substantiation for the claims in the advertising had not been submitted, the Committee considered the advertising to be in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 11.1 of the Code. In addition as Homeopathy was not regulated by a statutory body recognised by the Irish state, the Committee considered that referring to conditions for which medical supervision should be sought was in breach of Section 11.5 of the Code.
The advertising should not run again.