Complaint on Healthspan supplements claims not upheld: ASA

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Menopause

Complaint on Healthspan supplements claims not upheld: ASA
Claim-related complaints about product adverts and brand names of UK mail order supplements firm Healthspan have not been upheld by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), as the catalogue contains a disclaimer stating they are not intended to treat, cure or prevent disease.

The ASA received one complaint about three products sold via Healthspan’s catalogue, called Optiflex Glucosamine (pictured), Joint Synergex, Heart Synergex, and Brain Synergex. All three product names are registered trademarks, and the adverts contained a product description detailing contents.

The complainant – a member of the public – said that the names Optiflex Glucosamine, Joint Synergex and Heart Synergex, misleadingly implied efficacy and could not be substantiated.

They also said that the advertisements for Heart Synergex and Brain Synergex might discourage essential treatment for conditions where medical supervision should be sought.

However the ASA did not uphold any of the points, on the grounds that Synergex is not a word in the English language, and is not deemed to imply efficacy. Moreover, the inclusion of a statement in Healthspan’s catalogue that the products are not intended as treatments and encouraging medical advice where necessary meant the ASA considered users would not be discouraged from consulting a doctor.

Healthspan, for its part, responded had consulted with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and Copy Advice before publishing its catalogue, and the latter did not consider the Synergex or Optiflex names to be of concern.

It said it would be making the statement “as visible as possible by ensuring the statement was clearly positioned in future catalogues”.

No carte blanche for disclaimers

Matt Wilson, spokesperson for the ASA, told that the decision should not be seen as an indication that unsubstantiated claims can be made as long as they are accompanied by a disclaimer. He said that all complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and in this case the advertisements and product listings were not deemed to be misleading.

“This is not a benchmark ruling. Qualifications are fine and are acceptable in advertising, but they should be clear,”​ he said. “Disclaimers should not contradict the health claim – that is in the Advertising Code. They should not move away from the central message”.

Menopause claim complaints upheld

Earlier this week the ASA upheld a complaint on health claims made by another supplements manufacturer, Passion for Life Healthcare, relating to its fermented soy-flax supplement called Femarelle.

The claims, backed by several clinical studies, referenced the supplement’s ability to reduce, "hot flushes, mood swings, crushing fatigue, sleepless nights" ​in menopausal women and said the product was "endorsed and recommended by leading doctors and gynaecologists".

The product claimed to have no effect on “breast or uterus tissue or blood clotting”, ​effects that have been linked with hormone replacement therapies commonly used by menopausal women.

Product manager Alison Free told NutraIngredients that the company disagreed and was disappointed with the ruling but had abided by it because, “there is not much point fighting it in the current climate where product claims are so restricted.”

She added: “The claims were not medicinal because menopause is not a disease but a lifestage.”

Free said the company would now pursue a registration for the product under the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD).

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