How Life Healthcare Coped with the Terror of an ASA Investigation.

The Advertising Standards Authority is one of the few regulatory bodies in the UK regularly prepared to tackle the untruthful and unsubstantiated claims made routinely in the alternative health industry. It is also one of the weakest regulatory bodies in the UK. Nothing could highlight that more than how Life Healthcare (trading under the url http://www.reverseageing.com/) dealt with an investigation.

Life Healthcare had made an advertising leaflet for a product called Thyroid Support Formula and had a heading on the front page that stated “New Scientific Studies Prove That There Is Hope, Read On, and You’ll learn the Secrets That Your Doctor Might Not Be Telling You about an Under-Active Thyroid”. Particularly worrying was the claim that,

But the truth is that conventional medicine does not have the best testing or treatment methods for an under active thyroid. Just because your test results have come back negative for an under active thyroid doesn’t mean you don’t have it.

A complainant to the ASA expressed concerns that a leaflet from Life Healthcare was

potentially harmful because it discouraged people from seeking proper medical treatment or from following the advice of their doctor

and doubted that,

the claims made in the ad for the product’s efficacy could be substantiated

The ASA took a look a the advertisement and also challenged Life Healthcare if they had proper authorisations to market their products and whether the testimonials and photos included in the ad were genuine.

So, pretty serious charges. How did Life Healthcare respond? They didn’t. They completely ignored requests by the ASA to explain themselves. The ASA upheld all complaints and said,

The ASA was concerned by Life Healthcare’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code clause 2.6 (Non-response). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.

Their action was,

We told Life Healthcare not to repeat the claims in future advertising. We urged them to seek guidance from the CAP Copy Advice team before advertising again and asked CAP to inform its members of the problem with Life Healthcare.

I, for one, am not convinced that this direction will be adhered to.

Life Healthcare appears to make a business from evading legal restrictions on its practice. The from page of its website informs us,

With draconian EU legislation pending for the UK marketplace your right to buy optimum dose nutritional supplements may be limited, and some ingredients may no longer be available. Fortunately as we are based outside the EU (in the Channel Islands), Life Healthcare can continue to supply these high potency supplements that may have to be withdrawn from the UK and Europe in the coming months and years.

The current weakness of consumer protection laws in the UK will indeed be strengthened in the next few weeks as vastly improved consumer trading legislation comes into force. Whether this makes any difference to companies such as Life Healthcare remains to be seen.

*****************************************************************************

Postscript

It would appear that fleeing to the channel island might not be the get out of gaol free ticket Life Healthcare hope for. Yesterday in parliament, the Minister for Health Dawn Primarolo, responded to a question asking what the Government was doing about such loopholes. She replied,

The FSA continues to work with the Ministry of Justice, the Department responsible for the Crown Dependencies, and the administrations in the Crown Dependencies regarding implementation of the food supplements directive and Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation to prevent trade in food supplements that would be illegal in the United Kingdom.

On this theme…

32 Comments on How Life Healthcare Coped with the Terror of an ASA Investigation.

  1. Wow, that’s ridiculously close to the spelling for Thyroxine! Many of my patient’s cannot read too well.

    If you can buy it, then it must be safe and effective, right?

  2. When you see a tuna mayonnaise sandwich in a shop fridge that bears the legend: “Caution, contents may be hot. Contains fish, egg, milk, wheat” then it seems completely plausible that everything you buy is regulated, safe and labels are there to mollycoddle you.

    The very interesting Ashar, Rice and Sisson paper was based on the US experience but it was interesting how many medics did not understand that supplements etc. can be sold without FDA approval or pre-market evaluation.

    Because the ASA exists, it implies that it has powers and that advertising must be truthful etc. In addition, I think it is very difficult to explain to someone that although it can be inadvisable to say something in an advert, it is perfectly within regulations to make the same claim in a webpage, newsletter, book etc.

  3. Strictly speaking, just because your TSH has come back normal doesn’t mean that you don’t have a low T3 – it is unlikely, but it does happen.

  4. Actually, the ASA is an example where self regulation is pretty effective. If advertisers refuse to follow the ASA’s adjudications, then the ASA can recommend to publishers to refuse to carry the errant advertisements – and in practice such recommendations are followed. In particularly extreme cases, the ASA can refer the advertiser to the Office of Fair Trading (and this does happen – Ryanair is a recent example). All in all, I think that the ASA is not as weak as you might suggest.

  5. This quote: “But the truth is that conventional medicine does not have the best testing or treatment methods for an under active thyroid. Just because your test results have come back negative for an under active thyroid doesn’t mean you don’t have it.” reminded me of a passage in the Optimum Nutrition for the Mind book by Patrick Holford. I don’t have a copy to hand, but the Optimum Nutrition Bible also makes reference to underactive thyroid and Patrick states: “blood tests are often unable to detect sub-clinical hypothyroidism, so it may be better to go by the symptoms […] If your temperature before you rise in the morning is consistently below 36.5 degrees C, this suggests your thyroid may be underactive.” He then lists 10 symptoms of hypothyroidism and writes “If you score five or more, an underactive thyroid may be contributing to your problem”
    IIRC, the reference in ONM was a bit juicier than the ONB ref. I’ll have to check it later.

  6. “Look at how Boots simply get away with (almost certainly)knowingly untruthful claims…”

    It’s depressing to think that companies like Boots have large marketing departments busily working out ways to get away, relatively unscathed, with wheezes like their CoQ10 campaign.
    Particularly worrying, IMO, since we are being increasingly encouraged to view pharmacies as ‘the NHS front door’ and there appears to be official enthusiasm for extended roles for pharmacists, if press releases such as this are to be believed:
    http://www.responsesource.com/releases/rel_display.php?relid=iEzXQ

    “From Monday 19th May 2008 it might well be your pharmacist, and not your GP, who you can turn to if you get an allergic reaction. A new government backed initiative is attempting to make your high street pharmacists more aware of dealing with allergies, and an important port of call to offer advice and treatment…”

  7. And guess what arrived with the copy of the caravan club mag…a copy of the ReverseAgeing brochure headed up by the Thyroid support brochure. I am all for supplements and feel very different when I take ginseng/ginkobiloba Omega 3 etc. However I feel completely ill if I miss my Thyroxine and easily go into a very deep sleep. I would love something that helped me to lose some of my symptoms such as weight gain but wonder if it really is just what I put in my mouth, sit down too much and just plain ageing. Nearly bought it though!!!

  8. I also had the Thyrosine Leaflet in a magazine recently. I ordered some from reverseageing.com. It said “first class post”. I stupidly thought that I would get it within a few days. Eleven days later, still nothing and no reply to my email or msg left on their answermachine. I did however, get an answer on the telephone today (they didnt say their company name on picking up….). A very bad-tempered woman said I should get in another 7 days. I said I thought it was supposed to be first class post, she said “it is, we are just busy”. No prizes for customer relations there then! I ordered this product because I have had a diagnosed under-active thyroid for 14 years (im 38), I still suffer from tiredness and slight weight-gain etc etc, as listed on their enticing leaflet..but I am getting a little edgy about how competent this company are now after reading all this, and how the medication will affect me. I did telephone reverseageing before I ordered to ask if it was safe to take this medication with Thyroxine and other medication I take (including antidepressents and betablockers) and they said that there were no problems that they were aware of ! Any comments…? MISTIBLU

  9. This advert reflected my thoughts on the subject of under Active Thryroids. I have been using the product for about a year. It works with my Throxine and if I stop taking the supplement I am very much more tired (than I usually am), I have more 'get up & go' taking the supplement. I was almost falling asleep driving home after work most days at 3.30pm, but the Dr only increased my Throxine reluctantly, probably because would they be liable if I had fallen asleep whilst driving? He increased by 25mg and increased it again in 3 months by another 25mg automatically after the next blood test. So my medication had doubled in 3 months even though my original tests were NORMAL!!! I have since had it increased by another 25mg 1 year later by increasing it myself & subsequently seeing the Dr after the 'normal' test results, would confirmed taking the extra medication (to cut short a long story!). I am now on 125mg a day and I still get tired I have to make sure I get enough sleep at night & still have naps. The supplements do work , I have tried coming off them and would recommend them to others. It does take 10-14 days to receive them which is naughty of them, but last time I ordered by internet & they came through quicker I think. It probably doesn't help one to lose weight but that is expected to be down to dieting anyway, especially when one is menopausal and taking medication.

  10. Scottydog says
    Have just read with interest a leaflet advertising thyrosine support formula, so decided to investigate further.However, on their web site they do not list ingredients,which made me mighty suspicious! I’dont think I’ll be trying them !

  11. I ordered some THyrosine over three weeks ago. THey gladly took my credit card payment of £67.94 but I still haven’t received the tablets. I have e-mailed them twice and left a message on their answer phone (which appears to be for new orders,only wanting your card/payment details). I have had no reply to my concerns and am really worried that I have been scammed. Has anyone else had similar experiences? Is it worth going to trading standards since they are based in Jersey? Grrrr

  12. Grumpy54 says
    Interesting. Life Healthcare & Nature's Cure have the same PO box number. Wood's supplements are also Jersey based & my spies on the rock say they're all the same bunch of charlatans. Distributing ex Guernsey muddies the water apparently!

  13. My mum ordered these tablets from the leaflets that were enclosed in her parcel from La Redoute mail order parcel. When I saw the tablets I researched them on the internet and very quickly found there was no way of contact – let alone – speaking to someone from this company. I then contact La Redoute and asked them if they researched the info they put in their parcels as they are indirectly endorsing these products. Their response was that they use info that comes from a reputable marketing company but cannot be held responsible for the results – I disagreed with this but they would not pursue it. I want to be able to get her money back but don’t know how to begin. Any ideas out there…? Regards, Karen.

  14. Need to lose weight but cautiously only ordered the small amount of 120 tablets (about 3 mths supply) to try them. Sent off cheque for £37.94 which was cashed in May 09, it is now July and no sign of the product, no communication as to late delivery and as others have also commented no telephone number to contact them. Does anyone know their web address and phone number. Having read others comments I doubt I will see my money again and I also doubt that I want their product now! Has anyone had any success in obtaining a refund?

  15. the date is 26.11.09. I have just recieved the thyrosine leaflet in a mailing from another company. they clearly didn't adhere to the request to stop advertising this 'medication' in this way

  16. Have just found the leaflet thought I might try it as I am feeling low.So glad I read all the comments,I will chuck leaflet in the bin where it belongs. Thanks for your website.

  17. In my leaflet it says it "decreases your chance of developing a goitre" I thought you only got a goitre with an OVER active thyroid not an under active one. My leaflet came through an Yves Rocher parcel. I thought it was too good to be true. I'll stick with the Ginseng. Ann D.

  18. I stupidly ordered these tablets on 18th February thinking anything was worth a try, since I suffer from most of the symptoms listed on the leaflet and have been told that my thyroid is ‘normal’ by my GP. Needless to say my order has not arrived. It was only after trying to contact them by e-mail and my message being returned undelivered that I became suspicious and found your web-site. Thank goodness I only sent for the minimum quantity!

  19. Hi everyone! Have read with interest all the comments about thyroid support formulas. I recently ordered 2x 60 tablets of Thyrosine Support Formula from Life. They arrived within 10 days and I have just begun taking them this morning. I suffer from most of the symptoms they list and decided to give them a go. I have made notes of my weight and symptoms and will chart progress. I have a sensitive stomach and depression so will let you all know how I get on. It will be very interesting!I too have had blood tests and been told that my levels of thyroxine are “within normal levels”.

  20. When I moved house, my new doctor said all these thyroid blood tests were unnecessary even though my old doctor was about to put me on thyroxine…I knew I had a problem..
    The Thyrosine did help..They did take weeks to come and I have since switched to some other Thyroid support capsules which come within 2 days.
    However, I was horrified last week when I had a ‘phone call from Jersey…He was putting pressure on me to buy more Thyrosine and even offered to do me a cheap deal on them…Eventually I put the ‘phone down on him….
    Should any health product company ‘phone people at random and put pressure on them to buy “medication”…After all, he’s never met me,knows nothing about me or my medical history…I am over 65 and some people my age might have been persuaded….
    I have been waiting several weeks for blood sugar capsules from them and doubt whether I will receive them !

  21. mmm, wish I’d found this website earlier, suffering from really bad back a leaflet from Revitlise for tablets and cream with money back guarantee promised results. I ordered them, they never arrived,I e mailed them and they didn’t reply, mailed again still no reply, cancelled order. A fortnight later some cream arrived, not the advertised cream and unfortunately I was out and couldn’t refuse delivery, I then noticed my card had been debited a week after I cancelled. The card company can’t withold payment as some goods have arrived and advised me to contact them again, like that will work, but the whole thing is obviously one big scam.

  22. My wife has just shown me this leaflet, which is still (as of October 2010) being distributed unaltered. She does have an underactive thyroid, because it was zapped by the doctors for being overactive (and the levothyroxine to pump it up is cheaper for them than the carbimazole to hold it down; interesting that) and we’re fairly sure her dose of levothyroxine is too low but have not had any success in persuading the doctor to up it). She can tick all those boxes on the leaflet.

    Interesting that some people commenting here have experienced an improvement taking the supplement, but on the whole I think we’ll pass. And–just another thought–I wonder what proportion of the populace, underactive thyroid or no, would say if asked that they were experiencing some or all of those symptoms? Quite a large one in my view…

  23. I wish I had found this website before ordering from Life Healthcare. Because their site did not have a padlock security sign, I send a cheque and awaited the arrival of the Thyrosine. The cheque cleared my account on 30.11.2010, but I have not received my order. I have left a message on their website, but am now wondering if I have lost my money. Frankly, I no longer want to try the product if they are so untrustworthy. GS

  24. Hey guys get on Solgar site and see for yourself, great oils and fish can help as does Kelp, far cheaper too, and a good and safe company. Grow and control your life at your own speed, take care. PD.

  25. Hi everyone I have received this leaflet through the post and I nearly did order also as I have been suffering with normal readings at the doctors even though in the past I have been overactive – so glad I stumbled on this website – many thanks for everyone’s info. Just an update – the postal address is now in the Netherlands!

Leave a Reply