The GP and menopause expert who plugs products, sometimes without disclosure of interest

  1. In Allison Pearson’s new novel, “How Hard Can It Be?”, Kate Reddy is back, now dealing with the menopause. The bestselling author devotes a paragraph in the acknowledgements to Dr Louise Newson, “an expert in hormone replacement therapy” (HRT). HRT is the main treatment for menopause. On 17 September 2017, Dr Newson gushed on Twitter: “This book [“How Hard Can It Be?”] is so enlightening and truthful about the menopause – I have so enjoyed helping @allisonpearson with it!” Later that day the GP and menopause expert re-tweeted Ms Pearson’s response: “You were so helpful. Gave me great confidence that what I was writing was true!” Yes, but Ms Pearson and her readers should be aware: Dr Newson is paid to promote HRT and other menopause-related products and services – but doesn’t always disclose her commercial relationships with the relevant companies.
  2. Ms Pearson and Dr Newson‘s mutual admiration continued in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, where the novelist is a columnist. On 2 October 2017, Dr Newson published an article again banging the drum for HRT, “Women need HRT, not antidepressants.” Again, the menopause expert was full of praise for “How Hard Can It Be?” and its author. There was even a plug at the end, proclaiming the book is available via The Telegraph website.
  3. Theres no suggestion Ms Pearson has been paid or received other material benefit to promote menopause-related products and services in her new book, which was published on 21 September 2017.
  4. True, Dr Newson declares her financial interests in a file on her website. But she only published the file after I contacted her to query the absence of the information on her site in relation to a particular company (see below). Also, the disclosures there are inadequate. Particularly concerning, though, is her non-disclosure when quoted as a seemingly independent expert in editorial articles in newspapers and on websites – or as author herself of such pieces. Here I discuss two examples. In the first, Dr Newson‘s promotional activities around menopause-related vaginal dryness and a new laser treatment, MonaLisa Touch (MLT). Then her work with US drug company Mylan, a major HRT manufacturer. In quotes for a recent national Sunday newspaper article, for instance, Dr Newson praised a new supposedly independent menopause website for the public – but failed to say Mylan was responsible for it. She didn’t reveal her commercial relationship with the drug firm, either.
  5. On 4 July 2017, Dr Newson published on her website, menopausedoctor.co.uk, an article by Jane Lewis on vaginal dryness. There Ms Lewis enthuses about treatment MLT. There’s two paragraphs about the laser treatment, and a link to a new website, takeoutthepause.co.uk (screen shots in Figure 1a and 1b).

    Figure 1a. Jane Lewis’ article, “Vaginal dryness – The last menopause taboo,” part one at 25 July 2017

    Figure 1b. Jane Lewis’ article, “Vaginal dryness – The last menopause taboo,” part two at 25 July 2017

  6. In her introduction, though, Dr Newson didn’t declare a relevant financial interest. She simply said: “Jane Lewis has written this article to share her experience and help to empower women and break this taboo. I am so grateful to her for allowing me to share this on my website.”
  7. Yet Dr Newson was working with MLT, raising awareness of vaginal dryness and promoting the company. Website takeoutthepause.co.uk, where she appears, is part of a PR campaign for MLT organised by ROAD Communications (screen shot in Figure 2). As you can see, ROAD put Dr Newson at the heart of the campaign.

    Figure 2. ROAD Communications PR campaign for MonaLisa Touch at 26 July 2017

  8. On the same day Dr Newson published Ms Lewis’ article, MLT UK expressly thanked Ms Lewis on Twitter for sharing her “story” via the menopause expert‘s website (screen shot in Figure 3).

    Figure 3. MonaLisa Touch UK thanks Jane Lewis for sharing her “story”: tweet on 4 July 2017

  9. After I emailed Dr Newson on 26 July 2017 to ask why she hadn’t declared her role with MLT when publishing Ms Lewis’ article, the menopause expert added a two-sentence comment at the foot of the article: “This is an independent review and the opinion of Jane Lewis. I have previously been reimbursed to provide advice on general menopause issues with regards to MonaLisa Touch (takeoutthepause.co.uk).” (screen shot in Figure 4).

    Figure 4. Jane Lewis’ article, “Vaginal dryness – The last menopause taboo,” part two at 1 August 2017 (cf. Figure 1b)

  10. In the same email on 1 August 2017, Dr Newson also brought to my attention the file on her website containing her declaration of interests: link on the “About Louise” page. Yet the file creation date reveals it was only created that day – 1 August 2017 (screen shot in Figure 5). In other words, after I’d first contacted her. The full filename, too, shows it was published in August 2017 (screen shot in Figure 6).

    Figure 5. Declaration of interests: file created on 1 August 2017

    Figure 6. Declaration of interests: full filename reveals publication in August 2017

  11. Also, the disclosures there are inadequate. The menopause expert simply lists companies with whom she has/had financial relationships (Figure 5). There’s insufficient detail.
  12. Following our email correspondence, Dr Newson arranged for a statement to be added to the MLT website, takeoutthepause.co.uk (screen shot in Figure 7). It wasn’t there originally (screen shot in Figure 8).

    Figure 7. Dr Newson on takeoutthepause.co.uk at 14 August 2017

    Figure 8. Dr Newson on takeoutthepause.co.uk at 25 July 2017 (cf. Figure 7)

  13. On 28 June 2017, Dr Newson published an article, “The A-Z Of Menopause,” on the Female First website, which clearly identifies her as “ambassador” for MLT (screen shot in Figure 9). Disclosure of interest, rightly, then. Yet no disclosure in another of her articles, in dluxe Magazine dated 11 August 2017, “5 Steps to Take the Pause out of Menopause,” where author Dr Newson refers to vaginal dryness, names MLT and lists takeoutthepause.co.uk (screen shots in Figure 10a and 10b). The headline of the article, of course, echoes the MLT website, too.

    Figure 9. Dr Newson’s article, “The A-Z Of Menopause,” published on 28 June 2017

    Figure 10a. Dr Newson’s article, “5 Steps to Take the Pause out of Menopause,” published on 11 August 2017 – part one

    Figure 10b. Dr Newson’s article, “5 Steps to Take the Pause out of Menopause,” published on 11 August 2017 – part two

  14. Dr Newson is on the board of the grandly titled Primary Care Women’s Health Forum (PCWHF), an organisation that falsely claimed to be a charity (see 17 July 2017 post). She’s lead for the West Midlands. PCWHF is “dedicated to the education and support of healthcare professionals across the UK caring for female patients,” says its website. On 21 July 2017, it published document Guidance on Diagnosis and Management of Urogenital atrophy or Genitourinary Syndrome of the Menopause (GSM)”: GSM-Guideline. Dr Newson and Dr Carrie Sadler wrote the guidance on behalf of PCWHF. As the overview explains, they use GSM as a more accurate term for menopause-related vaginal dryness. Although the authors fail to declare explicitly any relevant financial interests, the document carries five – yes, five – different brand logos, including pharmaceutical company Pfizer. MLT, though, isn’t one of them. Yet here Dr Newson was again raising awareness of vaginal dryness – while the medical face of MLT‘s PR campaign to do the same. Further, the guidance describes laser treatment, which “has been shown to lead to impressive results in some studies.” While MLT isn’t named in the document, the list of references includes a single study of laser treatment – one using MLT. It’s surely remiss of Dr Newson not to disclose her link to the company. In summer 2017, I complained twice to PCWHF via email about her failure in the guidance to disclose her commercial relationship with MLT. I didn’t receive a response either time. Nor did I hear from Dr Newson when I raised the omission in an email.
  15. Now to Dr Newson‘s work with Mylan, the major HRT manufacturer. On 17 July 2017, I exclusively revealed that the manager of the HRT portfolio at Mylan UK is a trustee of The Daisy Network, a charity providing “support, information and networking opportunities” to women with premature menopause (registered charity number: 1077930). For several reasons, I was concerned the charity is a front organisation for the pharmaceutical company. The Sunday Times newspaper reported my findings on 30 July 2017.
  16. It’s clear Dr Newson works with Mylan as she sometimes declares her relevant financial interest. But sometimes she doesn’t – and that’s the problem.
  17. First, examples of disclosure. The GP publishes four leaflets on her homepage: downloading them you discover Mylandeveloped and funded” two of them. These are “Menopause and Me” (remember the title) and “Menopause and Me: In the workplace.” Here they are: 00133-22-Menopause-Booklet-Update-AW-3-HR-FINAL-JAN17-1 and 00498-02-Menopause-and-Work-Booklet-V5-FINAL.
  18. For further information, Mylan on the back of each leaflet points readers to several websites, including Dr Newson‘s. There both state: “Please note: Mylan has had no involvement in any of the websites listed above.” This is self-evidently false – because in both cases the drug firm’s list of recommended “independent” websites includes, er, The Daisy Network!
  19. On 13 September 2017, meanwhile, Dr Newson spoke at a women’s health seminar for GPs, in London, organised by Pulse Learning Seminars – title of her talk: “Early Menopause: Do we need to treat it?” She was “supported by” Mylan, according to the day’s programme (screen shot in Figure 11). Two examples, then, the leaflets and the seminar, where Dr Newson declares her commercial relationship with the drug firm.

    Figure 11. Dr Newson’s talk for Pulse Learning Seminars in London on 13 September 2017: “supported by” Mylan

  20. Yet occasionally she doesn’t. Particularly concerning are some of her promotional activities for a new menopause website for the public, Menopause and Me: www.menopauseandme.co.uk. Sound familiar? Yes, Mylan created the site.
  21. On 2 July 2017, Dr Newson was quoted in a very troubling article in national Sunday newspaper, The People, “It’s time to change the face of our final taboo.” Here’s the online version: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/final-female-health-taboo-set-10720595. (Trinity Mirror publishes The People.) Author Caroline Jones describes “new advice website Menopause & Me,” which is designed to help women make more informed choices when it comes to managing their symptoms.” “Dr Newson is a wholehearted supporter of all such efforts,” writes Jones about the site. Yet neither the GP in her quotes nor the author disclose the fact that Mylan is behind the site. There’s no mention of Dr Newson’s commercial relationship with the drug firm, either. Itd be laughable if it wasnt so serious.
  22. At date of publication Dr Newson hasn’t responded to requests for comment via email about The People article.
  23. On 30 August 2017, Dr Newson was quoted in an article on the NetDoctor website, “5 unexpected symptoms of the menopause every woman needs to know about” (screen shots in Figure 12a and 12b). As you can see, there’s a plug for Mylan‘s new site at the end of the article: “Dr Louise Newson has been working with Menopause & Mea new website dedicated to supporting women throughout their menopause journeys.” At least this article discloses a relationship, if ill-defined, between Dr Newson and the site. But the fact that Mylan is responsible for Menopause and Me is omitted – as is the GP’s commercial relationship with the drug firm.

    Figure 12a. NetDoctor website article, “5 unexpected symptoms of the menopause every woman needs to know about,” published on 30 August 2017 – part one

    Figure 12b. NetDoctor website article, “5 unexpected symptoms of the menopause every woman needs to know about,” published on 30 August 2017 – part two

  24. A day before the NetDoctor article, author of The People one, Caroline Jones, again quoted Dr Newson at length, this time in the Daily Mirror newspaper (“Your guide to beating perimenopause blues”): Daily Mirror 29 Aug 2017. Although not plugging Menopause and Me this occasion, the GP reassures women on the safety and effectiveness of HRT – but again fails to declare any relevant financial interests. To treat vaginal dryness, meanwhile, the article advises use of a “good” vaginal moisturiser, naming a particular brand – Sylk. Sylk‘s logo is one of the five in Dr Newson and Dr Sadler‘s GSM guidance for the PCWHF.
  25. Dr Newson undermines both her and PCWHF‘s credibility by being paid to promote menopause-related products and services. What’s worse, she doesn’t always declare relevant financial interest(s). The egregious articles in The People and on NetDoctor deserve scrutiny for another reason: Mylan is the company involved.
  26. Mylan is unusual in the UK pharmaceutical industry because it isn’t a full member of trade association The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). ABPI members, for example, submit financial data to its Disclosure UK database: http://www.disclosureuk.org.uk. Non-member Mylan’s payments to Dr Newson and other healthcare professionals, and healthcare organisations are therefore hidden.
  27. Further, Mylan has a demonstrable track record in the UK of questionable practices in both its marketing of HRT to the public and its closeness to the menopause charities (see 17 July 2017 post). To that list can be added dishonest promotion of its new Menopause and Me website via editorial articles in newspapers and on websites. Dishonest because the editorial content hides the fact that Mylan is behind Menopause and Me; and there Dr Newson endorses the site without disclosure of relevant financial interest.
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Daily Mirror blurs the separation between editorial and advertising

  1. On 22 May 2017, the Daily Mirror newspaper published a health-related ad featuring Dr Miriam Stoppard opposite her column. The ad risks undermining both her and the newspaper’s editorial integrity.
  2. That day Dr Stoppard’s column was on p.30 (Daily Mirror 22 May 2017 p.30), and the ad on the other page of the double spread, p.31 (Daily Mirror 22 May 2017 p.31).
  3. There’s a clear conflict of interest between her role as Daily Mirror health columnist and her endorsement in ads of health-related products and services.
  4. Dr Stoppard is also continuously promoting the advertiser on Twitter (screen shot in Figure 1), without disclosing she’s appearing in its press ads and on its website (screen shot in Figure 2), and thus presumably is paid by the company. Her Twitter biography proclaims “Daily Mirror health expert” (screen shot in Figure 3).

    Figure 1. Dr Miriam Stoppard on Twitter promoting a company, without disclosing she fronts its press ads at 23 May 2017

    Figure 2. Dr Miriam Stoppard on company website at 23 May 2017

    Figure 3. Dr Miriam Stoppard’s Twitter biography at 23 May 2017

  5. What’s worse, the Daily Mirror published Dr Stoppard’s ad – and alongside her column. As I say, the ad risks undermining both her and the newspaper’s editorial integrity.
  6. Dr Stoppard joins the club of media doctors who undermine their credibility by appearing in health-related ads – doctors such as Dr Hilary Jones (see 3 April 2017 & 10 April 2017 posts) and Dr Chris Steele (see 18 April 2017 post).
  7. Neither Lloyd Embley, Daily Mirror editor-in-chief, nor Dr Stoppard responded to my complaint, which I sent twice to both.

Company gets its own name wrong in ad – and ASA says it’s ok

  1. On 11 April 2017, I saw an unclear and misleading ad for the “Bio-Mag Therapy Bracelet” in the Daily Mirror newspaper, p.35. Here’s a scanned copy of the ad: Daily Mirror 11 April 2017 p.35. The advertiser is UK Direct Shop Ltd, which specifies a UK address.
  2. The ad is unclear and misleading because there’s no UK-registered company with that name, according to the Companies House register.
  3. When I rang the phone number in the ad, no one could explain why UK Direct Shop Ltd wasn’t on the Companies House register, either. Further, everyone I spoke to referred to “UK Direct Shop” only, without the “Ltd” (Limited) suffix.
  4. The ad refers to a website, where the company is identified as UK Direct Shop Services Ltd (screen shot in Figure 1). This company is on the Companies House register – registered company number: 09658267.

    Figure 1. UK Direct Shop homepage at 12 April 2017

  5. I complained about the ad to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In an email the advertising regulator dismissed my complaint: “Under the advertising codes, there is no requirement of an advertiser to state their full company name in their own advertising – they only need to ensure that they don’t mislead consumers by omitting their identity. As both you and I have been able to easily locate them on Companies House from the details in the ad [the website], we don’t propose further action on this occasion.”
  6. I told the ASA I was baffled by its reasoning. An inaccurate company name is misleading, too, by definition.
  7. I had thought a consumer could reasonably expect a company to get its own name right in an ad. It seems not.

Our Brave Heroes: fake military charity is no more, says Charity Commission

  1. On 16 March 2017, regulator the Charity Commission published a highly critical “case report” on Our Brave Heroes, a fake military charity from – yes, you’ve guessed it – Blackpool. It’s no longer operating, says the commission. Here is the Charity Commission case report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-brave-heroes-case-report.
  2. It’s taken a while, though: I exclusively exposed Our Brave Heroes on 26 October 2015.
  3. Andrew Penman in The Daily Mirror newspaper then used my investigation as the lead story in his column on 19 November 2015 (see my post that day for a link to his article online). At the end of that year Our Brave Heroes also featured on 5 live Investigates, the BBC Radio 5 live programme, when I appeared again as a live studio guest (see my 21 December 2015 post).
  4. Mr Penman has today (16 March 2017) revisited Our Brave Heroes after the commission’s intervention: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/collectors-brave-heroes-told-generous-10032216.

The Invicta Foundation: what is the trading address of official professional fundraiser EMS?

  1. The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, a Facebook group, has this week exposed the Colchester-based charity The Invicta Foundation (registered charity number: 1143326) as yet another military charity working with a rip-off professional fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/The-Walter-Mitty-Hunters-Club-HQ-315222931946839. These rip-off professional fundraisers not only have excessive fundraising costs, but usually work in highly misleading ways. They often create the impression that donors are dealing directly with the charity, wearing charity-branded uniforms. The public isn’t always aware that the collectors in shopping centres and other private sites are actually working for a third-party company – a company that retains for itself 80% of the funds it raises in the name of the charity. This blog has exclusively exposed many of these dubious military charity/professional fundraiser combos. It has exclusively revealed, too, the fact that so many organisations with this business model are from in or around Blackpool.
  2. Here I show that co-founder and public contact Stephen Robertson hasn’t suddenly become unwilling to answer legitimate questions about his charity and its official professional fundraiser. In April 2016, he was obstructive and evasive, refusing to tell me the trading address of the company it works with. What’s worse, he still wouldn’t disclose the information after I’d proven the link between the company and another Blackpool-based professional fundraiser – yes, Blackpool again – that has faced scrutiny for its business practices.
  3. The Invicta Foundation works with Events Management Solutions (EMS) Ltd (registered company number: 09807577), which was incorporated on 3 October 2015. The EMS website lists the company’s registered office address, which is in Birmingham. The trading address, though, isn’t shown. In April 2016, meanwhile, EMS was recruiting a “charity fundraiser” on the Indeed jobs website – from Lytham St. Annes FY8, next to Blackpool (screen shot in Figure 1). So at that time I first asked Mr Robertson for the address of EMS in Lytham St. Annes FY8. He refused to tell me.

    Figure 1. EMS job ad for “charity fundraiser” at 12 April 2016

    Figure 1. EMS job ad for “charity fundraiser” at 12 April 2016

  4. I then made the same request after proving the link between EMS and the company The Veterans Trust Limited (registered company number: 08945478). Andrew Penman had exposed professional fundraiser The Veterans Trust Limited in his Daily Mirror column in November 2014: the then Lytham St. Annes-based company had declined to reveal its fundraising costs, only divulging the alleged total amount of money it had passed to its then charity partner after raising money in its name. In December 2015, The Veterans Trust Limited changed its name to TVT Fundraising Ltd. Michael Figg is sole director of the company. Mr Figg was also a director of TVT Publications Ltd (registered company number: 09515278), which was incorporated on 27 March 2015. The registered office address was in Lytham St. Annes FY8. Initially, there was another director of TVT Publications Ltd: Nick Travis, the person behind Sterling Support, the official professional fundraiser for the notorious Blackpool-based military charity Families of the Brave. Both the Mirror’s Andrew Penman and I independently exposed Families of the Brave and its work with Sterling Support in 2014 (see my 20 December 2014 post and references therein).
  5. There’s a link between TVT Publications Ltd and EMS. Sean Smythe is sole director of EMS. And Mr Smythe posted a job ad for “magazine/wristband fundraisers” on the Birmingham Jobs Facebook page in the name of TVT Publications Ltd from Lytham St. Annes FY8. The ad is dated 13 April 2015 (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Sean Smythe job ad for TVT Publications Ltd at 12 April 2016

    Figure 2. Sean Smythe job ad for TVT Publications Ltd at 12 April 2016

  6. On 13 September 2016, TVT Publications Ltd was compulsorily struck-off the register at Companies House without filing any accounts. So much for its financial reporting – or lack of. Meanwhile, days later (on 21 September 2016), Mr Figg started another TVT Publications Ltd (registered company number: 10388268) – this time with a registered office address in Kirkham, a town midway between Blackpool and Preston.
  7. So it was a simple question for Mr Robertson in April 2016: what is the trading address of your official professional fundraiser? And he wouldn’t answer. But then he’s not the only one hiding the address: the EMS website isn’t forthcoming either. There isn’t actually much on the company website: no names of people, for instance. We only know about sole director Mr Smythe because of filings at Companies House. As we’ve repeatedly seen, there’s an unacceptable lack of clarity and transparency around money flows for these charities working with rip-off professional fundraisers. Yet on its website The Invicta Foundation doesn’t disclose the trading address of its official professional fundraiser – and won’t even do so upon request. Now, why doesn’t the charity want the public to know the details of the company?

A-SOLDIERS-JOURNEY.CO.UK in the Mirror

  1. On 18 August 2016, Andrew Penman used my investigation of the charity A-SOLDIERS-JOURNEY.CO.UK (see previous post) as the lead story for his column in the Daily Mirror.
  2. Penman’s A-SOLDIERS-JOURNEY.CO.UK report is available on the newspaper’s website: http://www.mirror.co.uk/incoming/soldiers-journey-charity-shuts-row-8651056.

Daily Mirror’s Andrew Penman uses another of my investigations

  1. On 7 July 2016, Andrew Penman used my investigation of unregistered charities on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website (see previous post) in his column in The Daily Mirror. I’m also quoted in his report.
  2. Penman’s report (“Charities should register for site”) doesn’t seem to be available on the newspaper’s website. Here therefore is a scanned copy of the page: Penman OGA.