A leaflet claiming that traditional Chinese medicine was safer than western alternatives has breached the advertising code in the UK, an industry watchdog said on Wednesday.
The leaflet could dissuade patients from seeking essential treatment from qualified doctors for serious medical conditions, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said.
The leaflet, produced by Ever Well Ltd, also claimed that serious medical problems such as cancer could be treated with Chinese medicine. It claimed that Everwell clinics could effectively cure all 66 conditions or symptoms listed in the leaflet - from lung cancer and infertility to acne and depression.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)—a government agency responsible for ensuring medicines are safe and effective—challenged whether Ever Well could treat all the medical conditions listed, and its implication that Chinese medicine was safer.
MHRA head of herbals policy, Richard Woodfield said the agency was writing to the herbal medicine associations encouraging members to check advertising complied with the code.
He said the agency had complained to the ASA because of concern that the claims of safety made by traditional Chinese medicine clinics were unsubstantiated.
The ASA said the use of the word "doctor" in the leaflet misleadingly implied the practitioners held general medical qualifications. It told the company not to claim that particular medical conditions could be treated by Chinese medicine unless they could prove it. It warned against repetition of the assertion that Chinese medicine was safer than western medicines.
Ever Well, on its part, argued there was a wealth of evidence that traditional Chinese medicine was a viable alternative to Western methods.
The company also said the leaflet did not state that Ever Well could effectively treat the illnesses listed, but that the ailments were capable of being treated.
Ever Well said its staff held medical degrees and were qualified in China.