The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) laid a complaint with the ASA against FAITH drops, which claims to be able to cure AIDS, cancer, and a number of other conditions.
How did the ASA rule?
DAMAANSA HOLDINGS / TAC / 15466
|Ruling of the : ASA Directorate|
|In the matter between:|
|The Treatment Action Campaign t/a TAC||Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)|
|Damaansa Holdings (Pty) Ltd||Respondent|
30 Aug 2010
Ms Catherin Tomlinson, on behalf of the TAC lodged a consumer complaint against Damaansa Holdings’ Internet advertisements promoting “FaithTM” Drops. The advertisements were published at http://immune-booster.synthasite.com and www.cancercure.co.za.
The advertisement at http://immune-booster.synthasite.com claims, inter alia, that:
“Clinical studies indicated that there are significant improvements in patients suffering from:-
? Hepatitis A, B, & C
? Peptic Ulcer
The advertisement at www.cancercure.co.za claims, inter alia, that “…Patients with various diseases from Malaria, AIDS, Cancer, TB, Hepatitis A,B and C, to name but few, have been successfully treated whilst supplementing their allopathic medicines with FAITHTM Drops”. Furthermore, under a link “AIDS” it states, inter alia, “Faith™ Drops is invaluable. Faith drops reduces the viral load to levels that are undetected in the bloodstream thereby allowing the body to naturally, through a balanced healthy diet restore and increase the CD-4 count thus totally controlling the HIV virus and not only putting it to sleep. We do not change the status of the patient from positive to negative but we stop the virus from replicating itself any further.”
This website also has a link to its “Registration Documents”.
The complainant submitted, inter alia, that:
? The respondent claims that the advertised product is registered with Medicines Control Council (MCC) whereas such registration does not appear on the MCC’s webpage.
? The product is promoted without any scientific backing and that the advertisements are in breach of Appendix F of the Code.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
The complainant stated that Appendix F of the Code is relevant to the complaint.
The respondent submitted that all its material is clear in that it does not purport to cure anything. The product is indeed registered with the MCC as a herbal supplement, which means no in vitro or in vivo studies are required. In addition, it attached the following documents:
? An internal selection of testimonials, case studies and laboratory reports.
? A copy of form “MBR20.8” emanating from the Medicines Control Council.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
Medicinal products cannot be treated as an ordinary general commodity. They have the potential for having harmful effects as well as beneficial effects and can cause serious problems if not used safely. For this reason, there are specific regulations that strictly control the advertising and promotion of medicinal products.
The scope of this ruling is limited to the subject matter of the complaint brought to the ASA, namely whether the advertisement are in breach of the cited clause of the Code. The ASA is not able or authorised to rule on the quality or safety of the product in question, and this ruling must be interpreted and applied accordingly.
Registration with the MCC
The complainant submitted that the claim that the advertised product is registered with Medicines Control Council is untrue as such registration does not appear on the MCC’s webpage.
The respondent attached a copy of form “MBR20.8” emanating from the Medicines Control Council.
The Directorate dealt with a similar situation in Comfrey Capsules / The Pharmaceutical Society Of SA / 9092 (21 June 2007). In that matter, the respondent submitted a form MBR 20.8 document as “proof” of registration of the product with the MCC. The Directorate approached the MCC for clarification. The MCC indicated as follows:
“[The] call-up Notice for Complementary Medicines dated February 2002 makes provision for an applicant wishing to sell a so-called complementary medicine to submit certain information to the [MCC] for evaluation… On application to the [MCC], an acknowledgement letter with an acknowledgement number is issued to the applicant. This number will enable the Council to trace the documentation in future.”
The Directorate held that, in light of this, it was clear that the document submitted by the respondent was proof of its application in terms of the Call-up Notice for Complementary Medicines, and that it was not a certificate of registration.
For the reasons explained above, the Directorate cannot accept the submitted form as proof of registration with the MCC.
The complainant submitted that the product is promoted without any scientific backing and that the advertisements are in breach of Appendix F of the Code.
Appendix F stipulates, inter alia, that advertisement should not offer products, treatment or advice for the listed illnesses unless such recommendations accord with a full product registration by the MCC.
The list of conditions contained in Appendix F includes, inter alia, “Asthma”, “Diabetes”, “Cancer”, “Tuberculosis” and “Ulcers (All except mouth ulcers). These are some of the conditions referred to in the advertisements with an implication that the respondent’s product offers relief and treatment. It has, however, already been established that the respondent’s product is not registered or approved by the MCC.
In addition, the Directorate is not swayed by the fact that the respondent mentions in selected sections of its website that this product cannot heal or cure. The overwhelming impression created by the main section as well as the sections dealing with each individually identified disease is that this product would deliver very beneficial health benefits to all who suffer from such a disease. This clearly qualifies as offering “products, treatment or advice” for these conditions, something which is clearly not allowed in terms of Appendix F for unregistered products such as this.
In addition, Clause 2 of Appendix F contains the same provision for making recommendations or offering treatments, products or advice for AIDS. It states that unless such recommendations accord with full product registration and approval, it is an educational or information campaign to the lay public by Government Institutions or bodies recognised by the ASA to run such campaigns; or is for a product not registerable with the MCC, in which case the normal provisions of the Code apply; no reference to AIDS may be made.
Given that none of these exclusions appear to apply in this instance, the respondent is not entitled to make any reference to AIDS in this manner.
Accordingly, the respondent’s advertisements are in breach of Appendix F of the Code.
The respondent is therefore required to:
- Withdraw the advertisements insofar as references are made to Asthma”, “Diabetes”, “Cancer”, “Tuberculosis”, “Ulcers (All except mouth ulcers)” and “AIDS”;
- The process to withdraw the advertisements must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling;
- The withdrawal of the advertisements must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide;
- The advertisements may not be used again in their current format in future.
The complaint is upheld.