Health: Oxygen therapy


INSIGHT
Published
Feb 6th '24
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This section should be read in conjunction with the entry on Health: Therapies (General).

 

  • What is Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen therapy can include various approaches including at home hand-held devices and clinic treatment using hyperbaric chambers. Practitioners have made claims that the therapy can help with a variety of medical conditions.

 

  • What claims are likely to be a problem?

Whilst the provision of oxygen may form a common treatment in hospitals, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have yet to see convincing evidence that the use of oxygen as an alternative therapy is efficacious in the treatment of health conditions.

 

Marketers should ensure they hold robust documentary evidence in the form of clinical trials before making claims that their therapy can be used to treat any health or medical condition.

 

This CAP Guidance explains the types and levels of evidence that will likely be necessary to support treatment claims.

 

In 2017 the ASA investigated marketing claims on a marketer’s own clinic website offering ‘hyperbaric oxygen therapy’.  The website included claims that the therapy could help treat a variety of medical conditions including fibromyalgia, hearing loss, peripheral neuropathy and sciatica alongside more serious conditions including stroke recovery, MS and Parkinson’s.  The ASA found that the submitted evidence was not sufficiently robust and concluded that none of the claims had been substantiated (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Ltd, 20 December 2017).

 

Similarly, in 2023, an ad for HBOT made unsubstantiated claims that the therapy was effective at treating the symptoms of long covid (Nimaya Mindstation Ltd, 15 November 2023).

 

  • What about conditions for which medical supervision should be sought? 

In some cases, marketers should avoid referencing conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

 

Ads for devices and therapies should typically avoid making reference to such conditions unless treatment being referenced is to be carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. Such treatment claims could have the effect of discouraging essential medical treatment.

 

The ASA previously investigated advertising claims for a medical device including claims that it would be beneficial to those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The ASA considered that COPD was a condition for which medical supervision should be sought. In this case, because treatment with the device was carried out by the consumer, the ASA considered that the treatment was not being carried out under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional and had the effect of discouraging essential medical treatment (Biolife Solutions Ltd, 30 August 2017).

 

In 2023, the ASA ruled that claims to treat conditions including “MS, stroke, osteoporosis and respiratory conditions” in a clinic using HBOT discouraged essential medical treatment. This was because the clinic were unable to demonstrate the HBOT treatment was carried out under the supervision of a suitable qualified health professional. Although the ad included a disclaimer indicating that patients should consult their own doctor prior to receiving treatment, the ASA ruled that this did not negate the clinic’s responsibilities to be suitably qualified to treat the advertised conditions. (Nimaya Mindstation Ltd, 15 November 2023).

 

Guidance on Health Therapies and Evidence QA (Sept 2011

 

Source: CAP

 

Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.

 

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