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Product: Health & Beauty (Alternative Therapies)
Advertiser: Chiren Therapy Centre
Medium: Press (advertorial)
ASAI Code 6th Edition: 1.6(c), 8.1, 8.5, 8.6(d)
The advertorial provided the following information:
“The Chiren Therapy Centre offers pioneering treatments to curing chronic pain. The staff are passionate about their practice, devoted to helping those suffering from debilitating pain and constantly trying to update their methods to ensure patients get the most out of their sessions.”
One client who attended the clinic suffering with fibromyalgia, gave a positive account of his meeting with the clinic’s doctor, Dr. Ramirez. He said in the following paragraph
“… Dr Ramirez told me he wouldn’t fix me straight away but that he would eventually fix me. People I know have gone on my recommendation and thank me now for it.”
Likewise another client who attended the clinic suffering with MS had positive things to say. He said that:
“…This is the best way I have found to deal with serious debilitating pain”.
Another paragraph indicated that:
“The clinic helps diagnose and eradicate all types of pain…”
The complainant said that it was her understanding that chronic pain was recognised as a disease in its own right with no known cure. She said that those who suffered with chronic pain were vulnerable insofar as they may go to extreme lengths and also spend a lot of money in the hope of finding some relief. She said she considered the advertising to be misleading, as there was in her opinion, no known method available to ‘eradicate’ or ‘fix’ chronic pain on a permanent basis.
The advertisers said that the Chiren Therapy Clinic was a progressive and professional holistic health practice which offered a wide range of treatments, services, and therapies tailored to suit the individual health needs of their patients. They advised that their clinic was not only an acupuncture clinic, but also offered traditional Chinese herbal medicine, therapeutic massage, and nutritional help.
In relation to the reference in their advertorial to the fact that “The clinic helps diagnose and eradicate all types of pain…” the advertisers said that when this sentence was viewed within the context of the specific marketing communication, it was clear that what they offered to their clients was ‘help’ or ‘assistance’ to deal with the symptoms of pain. They said that the ‘diagnosis’ of pain was central to what they offered, as their clients’ would already have experienced pain which is why they sought treatment from their clinic in the first instance.
To maximise the benefits to their clients, the advertisers said that it was essential that an accurate diagnosis was made, which then enabled them to provide the appropriate treatment.
The advertisers said that at times potential conflicts may arise where there is a clash of medical paradigms. This is because Western and Chinese (Eastern) medicine have different philosophical roots and have a very different understanding, language and explanation of health and illness/injury. They said it could be difficult, if not impossible, to make safe and accurate judgments about one tradition, using the language and concepts of the other. It is often the case that there are almost two different languages used, and practitioners of one tradition often struggle to effectively and accurately convey information to adherents of the other tradition. This can lead to some confusion and conflict surrounding appropriate terminology.
The advertisers said that through the use of acupuncture or other traditional Chinese medical treatments, while it was possible to cure pain, that it was not always the case that the underlying pathology was cured, though in many instances the treatment protocol would also aim to, and help, achieve this objective. They said this scenario was not completely different to a situation which may occur in western medicine, where an injection of morphine might cure a patient’s pain immediately and with continued use may even cure it permanently.
The advertisers said that they had suggested in their advertising that any person wishing to attend their clinic should seek the assistance of conventional treatment, including MRI scans, prior to attending. This enabled them to establish the best course of treatments for their patients.
The Executive asked the advertisers to provide them with substantiation including the results of practical trials on human subjects of sufficient rigour (as per Section 8.1 of the Code) to warrant general acceptance of the claims made in their advertising.
In response the advertisers drew attention to a World Health Organisation document entitled “Acupuncture Review and Analysis: of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials” which they said was available at the following link: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/pdf/s4926e/s4926e.pdf .
The advertisers said that they believed that this study provided objective evidence that acupuncture can work, and especially in respect of the area of pain relief that was being sought by the complainant. They drew specific attention to the following excerpt from the Report:
“2. Review of clinical trial reports
The effectiveness of acupuncture analgesia has already been established in controlled clinical studies. As mentioned previously, acupuncture analgesia works better than a placebo for most kinds of pain, and its effective rate in the treatment of chronic pain is comparable with that of morphine. In addition, numerous laboratory studies have provided further evidence of the efficacy of acupuncture’s analgesic action as well as an explanation of the mechanism involved. In fact, the excellent analgesic effects of acupuncture have stimulated research on pain. Because of the side-effects of long-term drug therapy for pain and the risks of dependence, acupuncture analgesia can be regarded as the method of choice for treating many chronically painful conditions.”
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint the advertisers’ response and the further information provided by them. They noted the serious medical conditions referenced within the testimonials and that the advertisers had not provided any robust substantiation or the results of practical trials on human subjects, to substantiate the claims that they could provide ‘treatments to curing chronic pain’ as indicated in their advertising.
Finally the Complaints Committee considered the claim that “The clinic helps diagnose and eradicate all types of pain” to be a superlative claim which had not been substantiated. In the circumstances the Committee considered the advertising to be in breach of Sections 8.1, 8.5 and 8.6(d) of the Code.
The claims used in the advertorial should not be used again without relevant substantiation.