What the ASA have to say about chiroquacktic
I’ve been looking through all the ASA’s adjudications against chiros and thought a summary of them might be useful to help understand what whacky claims are made and how the ASA deals with them. See the ASA’s website for full details of the offending adverts, the ASA’s response and investigation. The list of these can be found here.
David Stevens t/a Vital Body Clinic (15 September 2004)
The General Chiropractic Council objected to a leaflet that stated “”David Stevens” CHIROKINETIC THERAPY ”Let Nature be your teacher””. The leaflet, which explained the theory and procedure of the therapy, listed on its back page serious diseases and conditions including “ANAPHYLAXIA”, “ANOREXIA”, “DEPRESSION”, “FERTILITY”, “M.E [sic]” and “PALPITATIONS”. The complainants challenged whether the advertiser could prove the efficacy of chirokinetic therapy in treating the serious medical conditions listed in the leaflet.
This was brought by the GCC — why did they not deal with this internally?
This was a chiro who already knew that his particular quackery worked and announced it, then pretended to do the trial to prove it. Tut, tut.
Optimum Health Centres (19 December 2007)
One complainant challenged:
1. whether the ad feature made sufficiently clear it was advertising material;
2. whether Robert Delgados testimonial was genuine; and
3. the claim “There are many scientific studies that show that spinal adjustments can actually improve your immune system by up to 200%”.
4. Two complainants challenged whether the use of “Dr” and the claim that an osteomyologist had equal amounts of training as a regular medical doctor were misleading.
5. The ASA challenged the efficacy of the treatment for the listed conditions.
The testimonial appeared to be genuine, but all other complaints were upheld.
Spinal Health Centre (9 January 2008)
1.The General Chiropractic Council (GCC) noted Dr Paul Marshall was no longer listed on the GCC’s Register of Chiropractors and that he did not appear on the GMC’s List of Registered Medical Practitioners. They objected that ad misleadingly implied that Dr Marshall was a registered medical practitioner or a medically qualified specialist such as a chiropractor.
The ASA challenged whether the ad:
2. implied that Dr Marshall could treat serious medical conditions such as migraine; and
3. encouraged treatment of serious or prolonged medical conditions without suitable medical qualifications.
The GCC complaining again against one of their members!
Ideal Spine Centre (20 February 2008)
1. The General Chiropractic Council (GCC) noted Christian Farthing was currently suspended from the GCC’s Register of Chiropractors and that he did not appear on the GMC’s List of Registered Medical Practitioners. They objected that ad (a) misleadingly implied that Christian Farthing was a registered medical practitioner or chiropractor.
2. The ASA challenged whether ad (a) implied that the ISC could treat serious medical conditions such as migraine.
3. A member of the public challenged whether ad (b) encouraged treatment of serious or prolonged medical conditions by unqualified practitioners.
4. The same member of the public objected that it was misleading for ad (b) to offer a “Spine & Health check” as he believed this was not carried out by medically qualified staff.
Another one! Are the GCC a real regulator after all? Well, they came across a chiro who appeared to be practising while not on the GCC register, which is a legal requirement. So, what did they do? They complained to the ASA. Well, that’s all right, then.
All but item 4 upheld. They were told they cannot call themselves ‘Doctors’.
Wellness Centre (20 February 2008)
1. The General Chiropractic Council (GCC) and a member of the public objected that Peter Olsson was not entitled to describe himself as “doctor”. The GCC said Peter Olsson had taken voluntary removal from their Register of Chiropractors and he did not appear on the GMC’s List of Registered Medical Practitioners.
The same member of the public challenged whether:
2. the description “spinal specialist” misleadingly implied that the advertiser was a medically-qualified specialist;
3. the claim “I’m so impressed with the other miracles I see” gave a misleading impression of the efficacy of the treatments offered;
4. the claim “over 90% of patients who saw a spinal specialist were satisfied with their results” was misleading and could be substantiated;
5. the claim “published, peer-reviewed research indicates that the immune system may be enhanced by spinal adjustments” was misleading and could be substantiated.
6. The ASA challenged whether the ad implied that chiropractic treatment could treat serious or prolonged medical conditions such as migraines, whiplash and chronic pain.
Here they are again! If they suspected someone was practising illegally, is that not a matter to report to the police, not the ASA?
For item 4, they provided customer satisfaction survey data that showed their claim to be justified. Other that that one, all other complaints were upheld.
Gonstead Clinic of Chiropractic (6 August 2008)
Some or all of the chiros at this shop are BCA members.
The General Chiropractic Council challenged whether the claim “The Gonstead System of Chiropractic … remains the leader in Chiropractic techniques due to the lengthy training a Gonstead Doctor receives” was misleading and could be substantiated.
…and again, the GCC are using the ASA instead of their own code of conduct.
In this case, Gonstead Clinic of Chiropractic didn’t bother to reply to the ASA, so they lose by default.
BritChiro Clinics Ltd (17 September 2008)
1. The Carlton Clinic challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that the practitioners listed held general medical qualifications.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ad offered treatment for serious medical conditions without the supervision of a doctor or suitably qualified health professional, and
3. whether the treatment was proven to be effective for the serious medical conditions listed, as implied by the ad.
The first was upheld (they were trying to get away with using the prefix ‘Dr’ for their quacks). Surprisingly, the second point, which was raised by the ASA themselves, was not upheld. The third was upheld and were told not to make claims about arthritis, chronic pain and whiplash because they had failed to provide good (ie scientific) evidence for such claims. The ASA consulted an (unnamed) expert to help them.
Optimum Health Centres (17 September 2008)
This is their second complaint.
1. Both complainants thought the ad misleadingly implied that “Dr. Michael” held general medical qualifications.
2. One of the complainants challenged the efficacy of the treatment for the listed ailments, particularly migraine and whiplash, which were serious medical conditions.
3. The ASA challenged whether the ad was irresponsible, because it encouraged treatment of serious medical conditions without the supervision of a doctor or suitably qualified health professional, and discouraged the use of conventional medicine and medical supervision for such conditions.
4. The ASA challenged whether the claim “Dr. Michael Mathews, MAO … is a registered Osteomylogist [sic]” misleadingly suggested Michael Mathews was registered with a medical or statutory body.
All upheld, of course.
BritChiro Clinics Ltd (15 October 2008)
The Carlton Clinic challenged whether the claim “doctors of chiropractic” misleadingly implied that the practitioners held general medical qualifications.
The Cartlton Clinic (who don’t seem to be BCA members) have got it in for them, don’t they?!
However, because they hadn’t used the prefix Dr, but the phrase ‘doctors of chiropractic’, the complaint was not upheld.
Ideal Spine Centre (15 October 2008)
Their second complaint.
A reader believed the ad was misleading because:
1. it claimed that strengthening your spine and nervous system would improve the immune system and the body’s ability to fight disease and
2. it claimed that disease originated in the body and outside influences, such as germs, were not significant.
The ASA challenged:
3. whether the ad discouraged people from seeking essential treatment for illnesses from a suitably qualified medical professional.
If your doctor has taught you that germs can be caught, your doctor should be the sickest person in the world. The question is, can germs be spread? … If the germ theory of disease was correct, there would be no one living today to talk about it! Although germs are certainly a factor involved in the diseases of man, the germ alone is not the cause of disease…
Wigan Family Chiropractic Clinic (25 February 2009)
A chartered physiotherapist challenged whether:
1. the claim “Chiropractic is quite simply the best way to treat most spinal problems causing neck and back pain” could be substantiated;
2. the claim “Only a Doctor of Chiropractic is trained and qualified to give an adjustment” could be substantiated; and
3. the references to “Doctors” and “Dr” implied that the chiropractors were medically qualified.
The ASA challenged whether:
4. the testimonials misleadingly implied chiropractic had been proven to be effective for treating whiplash and chronic pain.
All upheld. An interesting quote from their adjudication:
We noted CAP Code clause 14.3 stated that testimonials alone did not constitute substantiation and the opinions in them must be supported, where necessary, with independent evidence of their accuracy. We did not consider that the evidence sent by WFCC, which consisted of a page from a claims solicitors website and a reference to an article in an orthopaedic medicine journal, were sufficiently robust to substantiate the claims made in the testimonials that chiropractic had been proven to be effective for treating whiplash and chronic pain. Because we had not seen evidence to support the claims made in the testimonials, we concluded that the testimonials gave a misleading impression of the likely efficacy of chiropractic treatment for those conditions and could discourage people from seeking advice from a general medical practitioner.
Heresay (ie testimonials) just don’t cut it with the ASA – only good scientific data are good enough.
Homeo Home (25 March 2009)
Monitoring staff challenged whether:
1. the ad gave the impression of professional medical advice;
2. the ad made medical and therapeutic claims for treatments and referred to specific ailments.
3. Monitoring staff challenged the acceptability of broadcasting the ad after two previous upheld adjudications against another homeopathic practice advertised on Channel S Television Group channels.
This TV ad wasn’t just to do with chiro, but other woo as well. All upheld.
First posted: 19 May 2009