Dr Miriam Stoppard dismisses “detox foot patches” as a sham – but Daily Mirror carried ads for them earlier this year

  1. On 19 December 2017, Daily Mirror health columnist Dr Miriam Stoppard rightly dismissed “detox foot patches” as a sham: Daily Mirror 19 Dec 2017.
  2. But something she didn’t mention: her newspaper carried ads for them earlier this year. See, for example, this ad on 25 January 2017: Daily Mirror 25 Jan 2017 p.24. The same ad also appeared on 7 March 2017: Daily Mirror 7 Mar 2017 p.35.
  3. The advertiser is Health Broadcast Ltd, a company I wrote about on 15 August 2017. As I then pointed out, there’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register. Further, the company didn’t respond to emails asking why it isn’t on the Companies House register.
  4. My 15 August 2017 post describes my complaints to the Daily Mail newspaper after it persisted in publishing ads for Health Broadcast Ltd.

Iain Dale is an “ex-Tory MP” – POLITICO

  1. On 10 December 2017, political news website POLITICO described Iain Dale as “commentator and ex-Tory MP” in its weekly Sunday Crunch round-up of British politics that, er, Sunday (screen shot in Figure 1). In fact, Mr Dale was never actually an MP: he was a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives in the May 2005 general election, though, according to the biography on his personal website.

    Figure 1. Iain Dale, “commentator and ex-Tory MP” – POLITICO Sunday Crunch on 10 December 2017

  2. Mr Dale is well known for being managing director of Biteback Publishing, which bills itself as “Britain’s leading publisher of political and current affairs titles”. Biteback’s new books include high-profile “Betting the House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election,” by UK political journalists Tim Ross and Tom McTague.
  3. Which brings us back to POLITICO: Mr McTague is its chief UK political correspondent, based in parliament. As such, he was joint author with Paul Dallison of the 10 December 2017 Sunday Crunch.
  4. Mr Dale must hope “Betting the House” is more accurate.
  5. We’d love to hear what you think,” says Sunday Crunch. Yet at date of publication Mr McTague hasn’t responded to my email. The “ex-Tory MP” claim remains, too.

Menopause Matters secretly promotes advertisers on Twitter

  1. Menopause Matters, a trusted source of information for both women experiencing the menopause, and healthcare professionals (HCPs), secretly promotes advertisers on Twitter. Here I show two examples.
  2. Managing director Dr Heather Currie, a high-profile gynaecologist and obstetrician, founded multi award-winning Menopause Matters (MM) as a website. She was chair of the British Menopause Society (BMS), the influential menopause charity, in 2016-17; and continues to be a trustee (see 17 July 2017 post).

    Figure 1. Menopause Matters homepage at 16 September 2017

  3. MM bills itself as independent. Nevertheless its website carries loads of ads for menopause-related products and services (screen shot in Figure 1), proclaiming at the foot of each page: “Adverts on this website are not endorsed by Menopause Matters.” There’s also a shop on the website, and another statement MM doesn’t endorse any of the products and services advertised there. At date of publication there are 21 – yes, 21 – advertisers in the shop, including Hyalofemme, a vaginal moisturiser, and Physicool’s cooling spray for hot flushes (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Menopause Matters shop at 4 December 2017

  4. MM isn’t just a website. It publishes a quarterly magazine of the same name, similarly chock-full of ads. The latest, for winter 2017, is the 50th issue. There’s an active presence on social media, too, including Twitter (@menomatters). On 14 September 2017, MM tweeted about so-called EveryWoman Day on that date (screen shot in Figure 3), without disclosing the UK distributor of Hyalofemme – and MM advertiser – was behind it. While a month later (18 October 2017), MM retweeted a tweet from Physicool linking to its blog post supposedly about menopause-related anxiety (screen shot in Figure 4). Again, MM failed to say Physicool is an advertiser.

    Figure 3. Menopause Matters tweets about EveryWoman Day on 14 September 2017

    Figure 4. Menopause Matters retweets Physicool tweet on 18 October 2017

  5. Purple Orchid Pharma Limited, the UK distributor of Hyalofemme, is responsible for so-called EveryWoman Day. This year EveryWoman Day was “raising awareness” of vaginal dryness, funnily enough – and so Hyalofemme too (screen shot in Figure 5). And who should appear on the EveryWoman Day website on 14 September 2017 writing about vaginal dryness and vaginal moisturisers – Dr Currie (screen shot in Figure 6). She didn’t actually name Hyalofemme, though. That day, meanwhile, she was also quoted on the Purple Orchid Pharma website, where it waffled about EveryWoman Day and “highly effective” Hyalofemme (Figure 5). Therefore EveryWoman Day was little more than a marketing campaign for Hyalofemme. So why was the MM founder and managing director directly involved in such a misleading promotion? And why did “independent” MM tweet about EveryWoman Day, without revealing the UK distributor of Hyalofemme – and MM advertiser – was actually responsible for the campaign?

    Figure 5. EveryWoman Day “raising awareness” of vaginal dryness and vaginal moisturiser Hyalofemme at 16 September 2017

    Figure 6. Dr Heather Currie writes about vaginal dryness and vaginal moisturisers for EveryWoman Day at 16 September 2017

  6. EveryWoman Day in September 2017 wasn’t the first time Dr Currie publicly linked herself to Hyalofemme or its UK distributor. In 2011, for example, she commented explicitly about the vaginal moisturiser after it became available on prescription, according to The Hysterectomy Association website (screen shot in Figure 7).

    Figure 7. Dr Heather Currie quoted in 2011 on vaginal moisturiser Hyalofemme at 16 September 2017

  7. On 18 October 2017, MM retweeted a tweet from Physicool linking to its blog post supposedly about menopause-related anxiety (screen shot in Figure 8). The final paragraph of the anonymous post crowbarred in a plug for its spray: “If you are currently struggling with anxiety, attempting to ease other symptoms of menopause that you are experiencing, will make it easier to deal with. Our cooling spray is perfect for easing any hot flushes that you could be experiencing, helping you to get a better nights (sic) sleep. If you’re looking for more information on menopause and how to cope with it, check out our blog here for more information.”

    Figure 8. Physicool blog post supposedly about menopause-related anxiety at 20 October 2017

  8. It’s unclear why any woman experiencing the menopause, or HCP, should listen to Physicool on menopause-related anxiety. What exactly are its credentials to offer mental health advice, when it flogs a cooling spray? More seriously still, why did MM retweet the company’s tweet on this subject? And, of course, why did MM omit to mention Physicool is an advertiser?
  9. MM also accepts funding from pharmaceutical companies. For 2016, it declares funding from three drug firms: Bayer, Meda and Mylan (screen shot in Figure 9). MM hides the relevant amounts, though, which is obviously against the public interest. Previously, I exposed Mylan’s demonstrable track record in the UK of questionable, sometimes dishonest, practices in both its marketing of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to the public and its closeness to the menopause charities (see 17 July 2017 and 10 October 2017 posts). Those exposés were reported by The Sunday Times (see 31 July 2017 post) and Private Eye (see 3 November 2017 post). (HRT is the main treatment for menopause.) Thus funding from Mylan is a concern, whatever the amount.

    Figure 9. Menopause Matters sponsors at 4 December 2017

  10. MM, as I say, is a trusted source of information for both women experiencing the menopause, and HCPs. The official NHS Choices website, for example, lists MM as one of its “useful links” (screen shot in Figure 10). While Dr Currie, immediate past chair of BMS, is often quoted in the national media on menopause. For instance, she featured prominently in BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark’s high-profile BBC TV documentary earlier this year, “Kirsty Wark: The Menopause and Me”. Its website explicitly states MM doesn’t endorse the many, many menopause-related products and services advertised there, which is a good thing, if true. It engenders public trust and confidence in its pronouncements and activities. Thus it’s particularly disappointing MM secretly promotes advertisers on Twitter. Self-styled independent MM isn’t independent at all.

    Figure 10. Menopause Matters on NHS Choices at 4 December 2017

  11. I sought a response from Dr Currie, who said in an email: “Regarding the issues raised, I am confident that the Social Media statement in our Disclaimer and Privacy section covers the questions raised and that there will be no further need for any email discussion” (screen shot in Figure 11). I disagreed, challenging her reply for two reasons. First, the social media statement to which she referred is new. How do I know? The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine shows that, previously, the social media statement wasn’t on the MM Disclaimer & Privacy page (see the page at 11 July 2017, for example: https://web.archive.org/web/20170711132356/www.menopausematters.co.uk/disclaimer.php). Similarly, on 5 December 2017, MM suddenly and without explanation tweeted a “disclaimer” about its retweets (screen shot in Figure 12). This was the day after I first emailed Dr Currie for comment. Second, the social media statement clearly fails to address all the issues, despite what she said. At date of publication I’ve received no further response from the MM founder and managing director.

    Figure 11. Social media statement on Menopause Matters Disclaimer & Privacy page at 11 December 2017

    Figure 12. Menopause Matters “disclaimer” tweet on 5 December 2017