Antagolin – ASA breach ruling June 2015

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Posted 22 July 2015

In the first ASA ruling against Antagolin, the claims “Antagolin combats insulin resistance and will help you to lose weight effectively” was ruled against and had to be withdrawn. It should be said that even Big Pharma, with millions at their disposal, have been unable to develop a great weight-loss product. Yet Dr Conrad Smith and the pharmacist, Mariaan Du Plessis, claim that they have.

A subsequent appeal was dismissed. It should be noted that no studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals, to date, supporting the claims for this product. Indeed, although the MNI website gives the spin that the evidence for the ingredients are sound, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, finds little support for the claims for the individual ingredients.

This did not stop the company for repeating these claims on an advert flighted on MNET. Bizarrely  Willem de Klerk Attorneys, on behalf of the respondent claimed not to be aware of the programme during which the commercial referred to by the complainant was broadcast!

The ASA examined the evidence and agreed with the complaint: “On any objective viewing it cannot be denied that the commercials (with the exception of the fourth commercial) make a clear and strong link between the ability to facilitate weight loss and having an impact on insulin resistance”.

The ASA ruled against the company.

RULING OF THE ASA DIRECTORATE

In the matter between:

DR SJ GOLDSTEIN – Complainant

and

MEDICAL NUTRITIONAL INSTITUTE (PTY) LTD – Respondent

29 June 2015

ANTAGOLIN / SJ GOLDSTEIN / 22891

BACKGROUND

In Antagolin / SJ Goldstein / 22891 (28 February 2014) the Directorate ruled that the respondent’s claim “Antagolin combats insulin resistance, and it will help you to lose weight effectively” was unsubstantiated and contravened Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.

In a subsequent ruling under reference Antagolin Insulin / HA Steinman / 2014 – 372F (28 March 2014), the Directorate noted that the claim in dispute was virtually identical as the one previously ruled on. At the time, the respondent confirmed that it would abide by the original ruling, and the Directorate accepted this undertaking on condition that the respondent to refrained from making any claims that the product was able to combat insulin resistance or assist in weight loss.

On 25 July 2014, the Directorate considered and rejected the respondent’s new substantiation. The respondent was reminded that its insulin resistance and weight loss claims remained unsubstantiated and in breach of the Code. The respondent’s attention was specifically drawn to the provision of Clause 15.5 of the Procedural Guide, which requires it to withdraw such advertising from any and all media.

On 18 December 2014 the Directorate ruled that the respondent Antagolin commercial still conveyed efficacy in terms of combatting insulin resistance and assisting in weight loss. As a result, the respondent was found to have breached the relevant previous rulings.

The Directorate, however, specifically declined to consider the claim “AntaGolin™ contains a blend of plant-derived (phytochemical) ingredients that have all been documented to help stabilise blood sugar and assist with regulation of certain biochemical pathways involved in the development of insulin resistance”. This was because the Directorate was satisfied that this particular claim was “… not the same as per the original complaint”.

SUBSEQUENT TO THE RULING OF 18 DECEMBER 2014

On 26 May 2015, Dr Steinman formally submitted a breach complaint against the respondent’s website http://www.mnilifestyle.co.za/products/antagolin/, noting that it still contains the claim “combats insulin resistance by helping you lose weight more effectively”.

He added that the claim “combats insulin resistance” was made in a commercial broadcast on MNET at 19:40 on 13 April 2015. In this commercial, three products are shown, one being Antagolin.

The complainant again objected to the claim “Antagolin™ contains a blend of plant-derived (phytochemical) ingredients that have all been documented to help stabilise blood sugar and assist with regulation of certain biochemical pathways involved in the development of insulin resistance”.

RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the breach allegation the Directorate considered Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide (Enforcement of rulings) as relevant.

RESPONSE

Willem de Klerk Attorneys, on behalf of the respondent denied the claims at issue appear on its website, and claimed not to be aware of the programme during which the commercial referred to by the complainant was broadcast.

It added that the claim “AntaGolin™ contains a blend of plant-derived (phytochemical) ingredients that have all been documented to help stabilise blood sugar and assist with regulation of certain biochemical pathways involved in the development of insulin resistance” was not in breach of any ASA ruling.

Despite the Directorate’s request, however, it did not provide a copy of the commercial at issue.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

Clause 15.1 of the Procedural Guide states that “The responsibility for adherence to a ruling made by the Directorate or the ASA Committees lies with the person against whom such ruling has been made”.

The essential question before the Directorate is whether or not the respondent’s advertisement is in breach of the original ruling. For this to be the case, the respondent would have to be making the same, or materially similar claims to those originally complained of.

Clause 3.6 of Section I of the Code states “When objections in respect of advertisements that were amended resulting from an ASA ruling are received, both the original and amended version will be taken into consideration”.

It should be emphasised that the ruling Antagolin / SJ Goldstein / 22891 (18 December 2014) specifically pointed out that the Directorate would not consider the claim “AntaGolin™ contains a blend of plant-derived (phytochemical) ingredients that have all been documented to help stabilise blood sugar and assist with regulation of certain biochemical pathways involved in the development of insulin resistance.”

As such, no ruling has yet been made against this claim, and the Directorate is unable to consider this claim now.

Insofar as the claim “Antagolin combats insulin resistance, and it will help you to lose weight effectively” refers, the Directorate could not find this particular claim on the respondent’s website as suggested by the complainant. The breach allegation also did not contain any evidence of this claim still being used.

On this basis, the breach allegation against the respondent’s website is dismissed.

Insofar as the television commercial is concerned, the Directorate requested same from DSTV. On 18 June 2015, the Directorate received five commercial from “M&M Pictures” the respondent’s creative agency.

The email also noted that; “The ads that were on air on 13 April were the sponsorship elements on Grey’s Anatomy”, that “The ads do not make the claim that Antagolin combats insulin resistance …” and that “The ‘health tips’ on these ads/elements are also not connected to one certain product”.

When considering the television commercials the following claims appear:

First commercial    “Are you struggling to lose weight? You may be suffering from Insulin resistance …” The commercial then features pack-shots of four products, being “RyChol”, “AntaGolin”, RheumaLin” and “NeuroVance”.

Second commercial: “Female with a waist of more than 88cm may have insulin resistance …” The commercial then features pack-shots of four products, being “RyChol”, “AntaGolin”, RheumaLin” and “NeuroVance”.

Third commercial:   “Lose weight effectively, combat insulin resistance …” The commercial then features pack-shots of four products, being “RyChol”, “AntaGolin”, RheumaLin” and “NeuroVance”.

 

Fourth commercial; “We combat diseases”. The commercial then features pack-shots of four products, being “RyChol”, “AntaGolin”, RheumaLin” and “NeuroVance”.

Fifth commercial:    “Males with a waist of more than 102cm may have insulin resistance …” The commercial then features pack-shots of four products, being “RyChol”, “AntaGolin”, RheumaLin” and “NeuroVance”.

On any objective viewing it cannot be denied that the commercials (with the exception of the fourth commercial) make a clear and strong link between the ability to facilitate weight loss and having an impact on insulin resistance.

All the commercials (save for the fourth one) create an initial impression that the potential problem is “insulin resistance” and a desire to lose weight. All commercials (save for the fourth one) then punts the solution by showing four of the respondent’s products, one being Antagolin.

Any reasonable consumer would interpret the message to be that if one is looking to treat insulin resistance and/or lose weight these products are the solution.

While the respondent’s creative agency is correct in submitting that the “health tips” are not specifically associated with any one product, it appears to overlook the fact that these “health tips” (i.e. insulin resistance and weight loss) are intrinsically linked to all four products shown.

At least one of these products, namely AntaGolin, has been ruled against specifically for making such claims. As such, there is no basis on which the respondent could include this product in any commercial marketing material that purports to have an impact on insulin resistance or weight loss.

In light of the above, the respondent’s commercials (with the exception of the fourth commercial) are ex facie in breach of the ASA Directorate’s previous rulings and therefore in contravention of Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide.

Given that this is the second time that the respondent has been found to be in breach of the original ruling, the Directorate is affording the complainant ten working days from the date of this ruling to comment on whether or not sanctions are called for in terms of Clause 14 of the Procedural Guide. After this, the respondent will be afforded an equal opportunity, after which the Directorate will consider the issue of sanctions.

This aspect of the breach allegation is upheld, and the issue of sanctions will be finalised once the parties have had an opportunity to address the Directorate in that regard.

The respondent is again instructed to remove any and all such claims from any and all mediums relied on for the purpose of advertising its AntaGolin product.

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