I have previously highlighted the many misleading claims about complementary and alternative medicine on the UK Health Centre website. The website is owned by Core Health Ltd and they provide misleading information about osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal remedies. The information they provide is misleading the general public and has the potential to cause people to take unsuitable treatments. In the interest of public safety I therefore reported UK Health Centre to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and focused on their claims relating to osteopathy in the first instance. That complaint was “informally resolved” but rather than addressing their misleading claims, Core Health Ltd actually added more conditions to the list of those that they claim osteopathy can treat. I therefore raised a second complaint to the ASA. This complaint was also “informally resolved” in January 2018. However, Core Health have still failed to address their misleading advertising.
The website has been changed in response to this second complaint with some claims being removed but also some new ones being added. The UK Health Centre website continues to make misleading claims about osteopathy as a treatment for a wide range of medical conditions including:
- Asthma and chest problems
- Long term illness
- Infections and illness
- Improving the immune system
- Increasing the efficiency of nerve supply
- Low energy
- Dysmenorrhoea (period pains)
- Recovery from childbirth
- Common infant problems (including colic, sleep problems)
- Monitoring baby’s growth and development
- Improving cognitive function
- Visual and hearing impairment
In this latest update they have removed the following:
- Glue ear
However, this is not an improvement as they have added the following misleading claims in their place:
- Improve blood flow
- Reduce heart attack risk
- Reduce risk of headaches
- Increase bloody supply to the brain
- Increase response time and feeling of “wellness”
- Reduce side effects of drugs
Osteopathy hasn’t actually been shown to be effective for any of the above conditions.
As well as making misleading claims about specific health conditions the UK Health Centre website includes other inaccurate information. Of particular concern are things like this:
“Your GP may have suggested that you visit an osteopath. This is common for people who suffer from chronic symptoms including back pain, shoulder pain, migraines etc. Your GP may also refer you to an osteopath if you are pregnant or have just given birth (especially if your birth was particularly traumatic or your baby is experiencing problems sleeping or appears agitated).” I certainly hope that GPs are not suggesting that people visit an osteopath. There is little or no evidence that osteopathy provides benefit for any condition and GPs ought to be recommending evidence based treatments. There is absolutely no evidence that birth “trauma” causes any problems in babies. This is something that is claimed by some chiropractors and osteopaths but actually isn’t backed up by evidence and indicates the lack of even a basic understanding of paediatrics within these two professions. There is no reason to ever take a baby to an osteopath (or chiropractor). None.
Worryingly, osteopathy is not the only area where the UK Health Centre website makes misleading claims. For instance, they say that acupuncture can be beneficial for people with cancer including the nausea associated with chemotherapy and the anxiety and pain from the cancer itself. There is no evidence that acupuncture is effective for any of these things.
In spite of 2 complaints to the ASA, Core Health has failed to correct their misleading claims. As well as highlighting a problem with Core Health as an organisation, this also further highlights the ongoing problem with the osteopathy profession. It is now almost 3 years since the ASA issued clear guidance to osteopaths on the conditions they may advertise to treat. The General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) has also made it clear that osteopaths should be treating in an evidence based manner. It’s clear that some osteopaths are still willing to go against regulatory guidelines and continue to treat these conditions even though it isn’t in the patient’s interest to do so.