Having contacted the Advertising Standards Authority in December over this poster by Alliance Healthcare, today I found a new version clearly targeting Barnet's parents with bogus claims about their homeopathic 'remedies'. The poster claims their treatments are "Nature's solution to antibiotics, Calpol, pain killers, cortisone and steroids", a slogan which will have Barnet's GPs rolling in the aisles. It would be funny if it wasn't dangerous. Many children suffer from serious infections and complex illnesses which require these medications, and no conclusive evidence has been found to show that homeopathy is effective against them.
Why has this company not yet been prevented from making these dangerous claims, and directing them at concerned, vulnerable parents in my neighbourhood? The poster (top left in the picture below) is right above the kids' rides in the local shopping centre, right next to its biggest supermarket.
Thousands of parents must have seen and believed this poster by now. When I contacted Alliance Healthcares Barnet representative back in December, she effectively admitted she had no evidence to support these claims. Having made clear the onus is on healthcare professionals to back up such claims, and receiving none, I reported Alliance to the Advertising Standards Authority (see the December post on this blog). The ASA's spokesperson confirmed Alliance were in breach of their guidelines on advertising homeopathic treatments and action would be taken: I wouldn't be contacted again as this action took its course.
We are now in February and not only are Alliance still offering these treatments targeted at children but their poster seems bolder than ever.
As you can see from the picture above, they offer a discount for children and free 'consultations' on some days of the week. The photograph shows a parent with a child.
What's the harm, you may ask?
Supporters of homeopathy continually claim they are offering 'complimentary treatment' and when challenged, say they do not try to compete with standard medicine. Homeopathy aids - so goes the argument - a natural healing process, but there is no danger as patients suffering from urgent or serious problems will first consult their GP. No side effects, as the poster reminds us. True enough, something which has no observable medical effect is unlikely to have side effects.
The problem is that they are making specific medical claims in this ad, as in their leaflet (attached to the poster), to treat serious and potentially very harmful illnesses. The idea that sugar pills can be 'effective' against the flu or glue ear, both conditions cited on the poster, is simply dangerous nonsense. That anyone should be allowed to make money from it is downright objectionable.
A parent who has seen a child suffer from the side effects of treatment for these harsh conditions could easily be misled into thinking that Alliance's homeopathy is a 'safe' and 'natural' alternative to drugs which seem heavy or harmful. Treatments could be delayed, interrupted or stopped altogether because of such beliefs. Who could blame a parent for seeking a less harmful treatment for their child? Little do such parents know, homeopaths are not allowed to make these claims as they have been shown to be false and misleading.
It boils down to this. Alliance Healthcare are targeting parents in my area and making money from false claims. Until they can prove the effectiveness of their treatments (and the burden of proof is on them, not on me to prove that they have cause harm, in case you're wondering) they are basically selling snake oil and making money dishonestly from sick children and their concerned parents.