Here's a press release that was sent out recently about a complaint I'd made to the ASA. As a result of the complaint, we uncovered the fact that Medsafe "grandfathered" in over a thousand of Weleda's homeopathic products. Medsafe registered these products as medicines without checking if there was evidence that they work, and despite a general understanding within science that homeopathy is ineffective. All they checked for is that there were no records of the products being unsafe, and given that homeopathy is normally nothing more than sugar pills or sugar water there were unlikely to have been any safety issues.
The Advertising Standards Authority has decided to not uphold a complaint, made by Society for Science Based Healthcare member Mark Honeychurch, against an advertisement for a homeopathic product from Weleda.
The complaint alleged that Weleda's website made misleading claims about the efficacy of their "Cold & Flu Drops". The website advertisement made the recommendation:
"Take at the onset of cold or flu to relieve symptoms - fever, muscle ache, headache, sore throat, sneezing and runny nose"
In response, Weleda said their product has been registered with Medsafe, and the recommendation on their website is consistent with this registration and therefore allowed. The Advertising Standards Complaints Board agreed:
"The Complaints Board agreed that the therapeutic claims Weleda made in the website advertisement and on the packaging for its homeopathic Cold & Flu Drops accurately reflected what the Advertiser is able to claim in line with the product's Medsafe registration."
The product registration for Weleda Cold & Flu Drops (file reference TT50-8039) is available publicly on the Medsafe website.
Unlike similar documents, it does not contain a list of indications or approved claims. Medsafe has told the Society for Science Based Healthcare this is because the product was "grandfathered" into their medicines registration system, and that documentation about approved claims for these older products is not available online.
The Society for Science Based Healthcare understands that this "grandfathering" process has allowed Weleda's product to gain Medsafe's approval despite a lack of robust evidence that it is effective for its approved indications. We are concerned that this decades old loophole is allowing companies like Weleda to take advantage of consumers.
Complainant Mark Honeychurch said
"Obviously something is not right if Weleda are being allowed to make therapeutic claims about a homeopathic product. Science has shown that homeopathy doesn't work, and also that there's no plausible way it could work.
If Weleda are allowed to make false claims about homeopathy merely because they've been making these claims for a long time, I think that's a loophole that needs to be fixed."
Everyone has the right to make informed decisions about their healthcare. When consumers are misled about the effects of products, as we believe has happened in this case, that right is violated.