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Spurious Claims for Health-care Products: An Experimental Approach to Evaluating Current UK Legislation and its Implementation

  1. Leslie B Rose*⇓,
  2. Paul Posadzki† and
  3. Edzard Ernst†
  1. *Pharmavision Consulting Ltd, 11 Montague Road, West Harnham, Salisbury SP2 8NJ
  2. Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Veysey Building, Salmon Pool Lane, Exeter, EX2 4SG, UK
  3. Email: [email protected]

Abstract

The lay media, and especially the Internet, contain many misleading claims for health products which have previously been inadequately regulated by consumer law. This was an experimental interventional survey within a consumer health-care setting. Three health products were chosen on the basis of being widely available on the UK market and having no available evidence of effectiveness. Twelve volunteers submitted 39 complaints to Consumer Direct (UK portal for the regulator Trading Standards) regarding false health claims, and 36 complaints were followed up for a maximum of 4.8 months. The mean time from submission of complaints to Consumer Direct to acknowledgement by the relevant Trading Standards office was 13 days. There were no responses from Trading Standards for 22% of complaints. At the end of the study one supplier had amended their website following Trading Standards advice, but did not stop all health claims. Another stopped advertising their product on the Internet and the third continued the health claims unchanged. EU directive 2005/29/EC is largely ineffective in preventing misleading health claims for consumer products in the UK.

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