ASA rule iron supplement claims are “unverifiable” and “misleading”

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The UK’s advertising watchdog has censured Solvotrin Therapeutics for claiming that its Active Iron supplement was better tolerated in nine out of ten people.

Two issues​, upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), questioned whether the claim "9/10 find Active Iron better tolerated​" was misleading and could be substantiated.

In addition the ASA sought reassurances the same claim was provable commenting that current rules require comparisons with identifiable competitors to be verifiable.

Public access issues

“The ad referred generally to “other iron products”, and that information was not provided or signposted,”​ the ASA said.

The small print did not make clear that the claim was based on the results of a consumer survey, as opposed to a clinical trial.

Furthermore, we noted that the survey results themselves were not in the public domain and therefore could not be accessed by consumers to allow them to obtain that information themselves.”

In response, Solvotrin Therapeutics, an Irish owned privately held pharmaceutical company, said that the claim did not specifically compare Active Iron with ferrous sulphate 200 milligrams (mg) (65 mg elemental iron), as understood by the complainant.

They added that nothing in the ad suggested that the product was being compared with high-dose formulas.

Solvotrin believed the comparison was verifiable owing to well-documented evidence of the side effects of oral iron supplementation generally, and those were widely known.

The firm also provided a published clinical report on Active Iron, which they said potentially, demonstrated a better explanation for the tolerability of the product, due to reduced toxicity and reactive oxygen species (ROS) in gut cells.

Based on that evidence, they believed that the claim had been substantiated and was not misleading.

Iron supplement tolerability

The ASA’s decision is unwelcome news for the Cork-based firm, who say the supplements successfully overcome the constipation, vomiting and nausea associated with iron supplements.

Based on a patented formula containing denatured protein, the supplement is said to be well-tolerated by the gastrointestinal tract as well as demonstrating an improved taste profile.

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