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Product: Health (Alternative Therapies)
Advertiser: Robin Hill Sanctuary
Medium: Internet (Social Media)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.23, 11.1, 11.5, 11.6, 11.10
The advertisement which was posted on Facebook featured an image of the COVID-19
virus and referred to the following:
“HOMEOPATHIC IMMUNE SYSTEM ENHANCER
(Homeopathist’s name), at Robin Hill Clinic Cork has researched and developed a
homeopathic remedy that enhances the immune system and could help build resistance to
the COVID-19 virus
TO OBTAIN REMEDY ring… or email…”
Three complaints were received concerning the advertisement.
Complaint Issue 1
All three complainants considered the advertising to be misleading and queried how it
could help to build resistance to the COVID-19 virus. One complainant said that there
was no research provided in relation to the claims made.
Complaint Issue 2
One complainant also considered that the advertising had preyed on vulnerable and scared
Complaint Issue 1
The advertisers said that they had been studying the progress of the coronavirus(1) since
early January 2020 and with their knowledge of homeopathy had formulated a remedy to
boost the immune system. They provided the full list of remedies included in their
They said their homeopathist had 9 years of formal training and as they had been trained
to do, they had been dispensing homeopathic remedies for the last 23 years. They had also
been a health care provider for the last 40 years.
The advertisers referred to a paper on the history of the treatment of epidemics with
homeopathy. This paper included an outline of the substantial rates of success which
homeopathic remedies had in treating epidemic diseases over the years and how it was
these successes that had placed the practice of homeopathy so firmly in the consciousness
of people world-wide.
The advertisers said they had never claimed to ‘cure’ the coronavirus and they did not
consider their advertising to be misleading or untruthful.
They said that there were hundreds of years of “clinical tests” conducted to substantiate
the keynotes of homeopathic remedies.
They pointed out that there were extensive articles available online in relation to all the
homeopathic remedies included in the blend which they provided. They made reference
to some homeopathic remedies which had been used to help with symptoms of influenza.
The symptoms helped with the remedies included sore throats, chills, fever, headaches and
weakness. Taking these remedies into account the advertisers said that they had
formulated a homeopathic remedy that could strengthen the immune system and may offer
protection against viruses.
Complaint Issue 2
The advertisers said that they had not preyed on vulnerable and scared people. Their
intention had been to help vulnerable and scared people from getting the virus as taught
by homeopathic principles. They said that fear mongering was something which they did
not condone. They said they had checked with independent sources as to whether their
post aroused fear and if so, had it been “disproportionate to the risk” and the answer came
back as a resounding no.
They said that their objective had been to give people hope and protection if anything and
they had formulated a homeopathic product that would enhance the immune system and
safeguard against flu viruses. They said this had been an attempt by them to save lives
and lessen the mortality figures.
The advertisers said that the advertising in question had been removed.
The Executive reviewed the World Health Organisation’s website (www.who.int) in order
to obtain information regarding potential cures or therapies for Covid19. The WHO’s
website states that:
“While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and
alleviate symptoms of COVID-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can
prevent or cure the disease. WHO does not recommend self-medication with any
medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for COVID-19. However,
there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional
medicines. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical
findings are available.”(2)
Footnotes: (1) COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called coronavirus.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’
response, and that the advertising had been removed.
Complaint Issue 1 – Upheld
The Committee noted the Code requirement that claims about health and beauty products
and treatments should be backed by substantiation. Where relevant, this should include
the results of robust and reputable trials on human subjects, of sufficient rigour, design
and execution as to warrant general acceptance of the results (11.1).
The Committee noted that the advertising claims had included the wording ‘could help’.
While the use of this wording implied a conditionality, i.e. that the product ‘could help’
in some cases, not all, such claims should be substantiated.
The Committee noted that information had been provided on individual ingredients in the
product. They also noted, however, that no evidence had been provided to substantiate
the claim that when all the remedies were compounded together that they could help build
resistance to the coronavirus that caused COVID-19.
The Complaints Committee also noted the World Health Organisation statement that there
was no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease.
In view of the information provided on the WHO’s website and in the absence of
independent, peer reviewed data that applied to Covid-19, the Committee considered that
the advertising was in breach of Section 11.1 of the Code.
Complaint Issue 2 – Not Upheld
The Complaints Committee noted the Code requirement that marketing communications
should not cause fear or distress without good reason. They accepted that in a pandemic,
consumers’ fears and concerns were likely to be heightened. However, they noted that the
advertising claim, although it had not been substantiated, had not in itself been such to
increase fears and exploit vulnerable consumers. In the circumstances the Committee did
not consider that the advertisement had breached the Code on the basis suggested in
Complaint Issue 2.
As the advertising had been removed, there was no further action required in relation to
The Complaints Committee advised the advertisers that unless they held relevant
substantiation, the claims should not be repeated.