This is an extract from an ASA ruling delivered today (9 January 2013). The full text can be read HERE.
Advertising Standards Authority Adjudication on University College London Hospitals
University College London Hospitals t/a The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine
23 Queen Square
Date: 9 January 2013
Sector: Health and beauty
Number of complaints: 1
Complaint Ref: A11-166640
Summary of Council decision:
Seven issues were investigated of which five were Upheld and two were Not upheld.
A leaflet, for The Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RLHIM) was headed “Medical and Clinical Hypnosis” and made a number of claims for the therapy.
The Nightingale Collaboration challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:
1. “Hypnosis can benefit almost anyone to improve their physical, emotional and mental health”;
2. “Research has shown that hypnosis can help regulate various systems of the body, such as the Immune System, Nervous System and Gastro-intestinal System”;
3. “The following medical problems have been shown to benefit from the use of medical hypnosis: Gastrointestinal Disorders
Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Chronic Functional Abdominal Pain – Gastro-oesophageal Reflux Disease – Functional Dyspepsia”;
4. “[The following medical problems have been shown to benefit from the use of medical hypnosis:] Chronic Pain
Headache – Oral and facial pain – Neuropathic pain – Neuralgia – Fibromyalgia – Rheumatic pain”;
5. “[The following medical problems have been shown to benefit from the use of medical hypnosis:] Cancer Pain”;
6. “[The following medical problems have been shown to benefit from the use of medical hypnosis:] Skin Conditions
Eczema – Psoriasis – Urticaria – Itching”;
7. “[The following medical problems have been shown to benefit from the use of medical hypnosis:] Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (referral through the CFS Service)”.
We noted the sample size of the two studies provided on the effects of hypnosis on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome were particularly small; one was a study involving one participant and the other involved three patients.
We considered that the studies were not suitably robust and a sample size of only four people was not adequate or large enough to demonstrate the effects of hypnotherapy on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. We therefore concluded that the claim “[The following medical problems have been shown to benefit from the use of medical hypnosis] – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” was misleading.
On this point, the leaflet breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 12.1 (Medicines, medical devices, health related products and beauty products).
In summary, we considered that the body of evidence provided by RLHIM, as a whole, had supported the notion that hypnotherapy might help people to cope with and manage pain, and with perceived relief of pain. However, we considered that the leaflet had misleadingly implied more: that hypnotherapy could treat or cure the conditions listed, an interpretation for which we had not seen suitably robust evidence.
The leaflet must not appear again in its current form. We told RLHIM to ensure that they held robust evidence to substantiate efficacy claims in the future.