Rugby therapy centre’s misleading adverts censored for discouraging people from seeking medical treatment - The Rugby Observer

Rugby therapy centre’s misleading adverts censored for discouraging people from seeking medical treatment

Rugby Editorial 27th Sep, 2023   0

A THERAPY centre in Rugby whose misleading adverts could have discouraged people to seek medical treatment for serious conditions has been censored by the Advertising Standards Authority.

O2HyperHealth has been ordered to remove adverts which claimed hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) could treat a variety of acute and chronic medical conditions – including neurological and heart conditions.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation into the business’ online and leaflet adverts following a complaint from a Rugby Borough Council officer.

The environmental health officer who spotted the Albert Street centre’s advert was concerned the claims risked discouraging people from seeking essential medical treatment.

HBOT, which involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurised environment, is used by the NHS to treat conditions including carbon monoxide poisoning and decompression sickness.

But O2HyperHealth’s website stated HBOT could treat ‘a variety of acute and chronic conditions’ and had been ‘clinically shown’ to help with depression, anxiety and stress.

A video on the business’ website and YouTube channel stated ‘pills don’t always work’ and ‘more medication can lead to complications’.

And a leaflet claimed HBOT could treat conditions including ‘autism, asthma, migraine, stress, pain, injury, surgery, heart, bone, brain, ADHD’.

During the investigation, the centre told the ASA it had not intended to characterise HBOT as a suitable replacement for essential medical treatment, but wanted to inform consumers of its potential benefits in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle.

O2HyperHealth stressed staff established whether customers had conditions which required medical treatment – or whether HBOT could potentially harm the customer – and, when necessary, told customers to seek medical advice.

The business told the ASA it had ensured its claims were supported by scientific evidence – and provided the ASA with web links to 74 papers on a biomedical publication database.

But O2HyperHealth provided no detail of the relevance of the papers, and insisted many of its claims stated HBOT ‘helped’ with conditions rather than replacing medical treatments.

After being contacted by the ASA, O2HyperHealth removed many of the claims from the adverts, but not all.

In its ruling published today (Wednesday September 27), the ASA said the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing – the ‘CAP Code’ – stated marketers must not discourage essential treatment for which medical supervision should be sought.

The ruling added: “Evidence relating to the efficacy of a treatment for a serious medical condition was not relevant to the ASA’s consideration of whether claims in an ad breached the rule.”

The ASA highlighted both adverts referred to depression, anxiety, asthma, autism, ADHD and infections related to diabetes – all conditions which require medical supervision.

It added the video advert referred to ‘acute and chronic conditions’ including ‘brain, heart and bone’ – implying HBOT could treat neurological and heart conditions, and diseases affecting bone tissue.

The ASA said the advert gave the ‘overall impression the therapy could treat conditions for which medical supervision should be sought’.

The ASA ruled the adverts breached the CAP Code and ordered O2HyperHealth not to publish them again, and to ensure future adverts adhered to the code.

David Burrows, Rugby Borough Council’s spokesman for regulation and safety, said: “It’s a tribute to the officer’s experience and knowledge that these adverts rang alarm bells, despite the council having no regulatory authority over such therapy centres.

“The CAP Code protects consumers from misleading advertising and, in cases which concern medical treatments, it’s absolutely vital consumers receive accurate information in order to make an informed choice.”

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