Two websites run by Homeopathy Plus! have been ordered to remove misleading and unverified information pertaining to homeopathic immunisation and flu treatment, following a ruling by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The rulings were passed down in response to a complaint made by Dr Ken Harvey of the LaTrobe School of Public Health in Melbourne.
Dr Harvey objected to claims on the websites that;
“homeopathic immunisation is effective against poliomyelitis, chicken pox, meningococcal disease, hepatitis (all types), Japanese encephalitis, Hib, influenza, measles, pneumococcal disease, smallpox, typhoid, cholera, typhus, whooping cough, rubella, mumps, diptheria, malaria, tetanus, yellow fever, dysentery and many other epidemic diseases”.
As evidence for such claims, the advertiser cited a thesis by Australian homeopath, Isaac Golden. Dr Harvey noted however that this information was not contained in the thesis, on the converse it said; “ “the effectiveness of the homeopathic immunisation programme could not be established with statistical certainty given the small sample size..”
The advertiser could not dispute this, responding that this statement was “..a pro-forma appended to many thesis prior to publication…” and that the work of Golden; “….found that homeoprophylaxis provided the same degree or better protection than that of vaccines with none of their side effects or complications”. So whilst considerable weight was placed on this accuracy of this statement with regard to the advertisements, the advertiser was unable to provide evidence for its accuracy. The Panel noted; “Whether such statements are often made within academic thesis…..was not relevant to the question of whether the Golden paper could support the claims made in the advertisement”.
About influenza, the websites state that the homeopathic preparation, “Anas Barbariae relieves the intensity and shortens the duration of flu symptoms better than anti-virals…..without the side effects” and “symptoms are sometimes removed in a few hours”. The websites also promoted homeopathic immunisation kits together with other homeopathic treatment and immunisation products.
The findings from The Complaints Resolution Panel state that although the complainant provided references for homeopathic immunisation, they “did not provide complete copies of the papers cited”. Further, material on the websites was “misleading”, “unverified” and “abused the trust or exploited the lack of knowledge of consumers”.
The Panel found that none of the material supplied by the advertiser supported claims made on the websites, and therefore the information was misleading and “likely to arouse unwarranted expectations” from consumers. Moreover, the Panel noted that the websites appeared “likely to create fears and distress in consumers by implying that vaccination is harmful”.
As a result of numerous breaches of the advertising code, the Panel ruled for Homeopathy Plus! and www.d-n-h.org to remove the misleading material and issue a retraction on their websites which is to remain for 90 days. The advertiser has 14 days to comply with the ruling.
This comes at a time when NSW Health authorities have issued a warning about meningococcal disease following the death of a woman in Sydney, and a spike in cases in NSW, with eight reported in December 2009, in Sydney.