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BBC Dragon’s Den Controversy: ‘Acu Seeds’ Update

The Independent: BBC reinstates Dragons’ Den episode with disclaimer after ear seeds complaints

Article extracts

The BBC has been forced to edit an episode of Dragon’s Den following concerns over “unfounded claims” regarding a product that historically received offers from all six Dragons.

Days after it was revealed the corporation had removed the recent episode from streaming platform BBC iPlayer, the instalment, which aired on 18 January, has been reinstated, but with a disclaimer.

In the episode, Boxer said she had used “diet, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and ear seeds” to aid her recovery from ME, and had turned the latter idea into the brand Acu Seeds.

However, shortly after, an open letter, organised by Action for ME, to the chairs of two House of Commons select committees, expressed concern over the pitch’s suggestion the product was “responsible for her recovery and should therefore be considered an effective treatment”.

The BBC has said that the episode has now been “edited since broadcast to clarify aspects of the Acu Seeds pitch”, maintaining that the ear seeds were “never described as a cure for ME”

In a statement of clarification, a spokesperson said:

Dragons’ Den does not, and has never, set out to offer medical advice, and we believe its audience understands this.”

During the show, Sheffield-based Boxer told the potential investors that she had established the product after seeking treatments when she was diagnosed with ME at the age of 26.

“I was told by doctors that I would never recover, work again or have children. I went on a personal healing journey using diet, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and ear seeds. Using this combination, I believe, aided my recovery within 12 months.”

Following the episode, a joint letter signed by ME campaign groups was sent to Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairwoman Dame Caroline Dinenage and Health and Social Care Committee chairman Steve Brine.

The groups said that, as the episode was aired in prime time on BBC One, they were concerned that a larger audience would have heard the pitch which they alleged “amounts to an unfounded claim that this form of alternative medicine can cure ME”.

It added: “Sadly, there is currently no known effective treatment for ME. There has been a distinct paucity of research into this disease, compared to other long-term conditions, which means that ME is still without a cure.

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ME Association comment

“The way in which Dragons' Den has been used to promote an unproven treatment for ME/CFS has, not surprisingly, caused a great deal of upset and concern in the ME patient community.

People with ME/CFS are fed up with the way in which products like this are regularly being promoted when there is no sound evidence from proper placebo-controlled clinical trials to confirm that they are safe and effective.

“These sort of expensive commercial products and devices should not be promoted to very vulnerable sick people until they have been properly assessed for safety and efficacy in clinical trials – in exactly the same way that drug treatments are.”

Dr Charles Shepherd, Trustee & Hon. Medical Adviser to the ME Association.

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