Fake doctor’s endorsement in national newspaper ad

  1. On 8 November 2017, I saw an unclear and opaque ad in the Daily Mirror newspaper. It was for Nytric EFX, a food supplement that allegedly improves “sexual performance” in men: Daily Mirror 8 Nov 2017. The advertiser identified itself as Stirling Health Ltd. I complained to the company about two issues in the ad. In each case its response was unsatisfactory. So I then complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s regulator of advertising.
  2. The first issue was that both the ad and the Stirling Health website (screen shot in Figure 1) display an endorsement of Nytric EFX by Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Yet I can’t find him on DoctorFinder when searching by name for Jack Johnson in state Massachusetts. DoctorFinder is the online doctor search tool from the American Medical Association. It includes “virtually every licensed physician in the United States” – “more than 814 000 doctors.”

    Figure 1. Dr Jack Johnson endorses Nytric EFX on Stirling Health website at 14 November 2017

  3. I asked Stirling Health in an email why Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA isn’t listed on DoctorFinder. Its response was unacceptable. It wrote: “I can confirm the doctors who endorse our products and adverts do not use thier (sic) real names to protect their identity and avoid infulxes (sic) of people trying to contact them, when its (sic) us that can assist witrh (sic) any queries.” As you can see, the response isn’t credible. It’s illiterate too. My reasonable suspicion is Dr Jack Johnson doesn’t exist.
  4. Emily Henwood of the ASA said in an email the company had told the regulator it would no longer use the testimonial from the alleged Dr Jack Johnson in its advertising. This was following involvement of the ASA compliance team.
  5. The second problem with the ad is: wheres Stirling Health Ltd registered, if it’s registered anywhere? There’s no UK-registered company called Stirling Health Ltd, according to Companies House records. The company said in an email “Stirling Health” (note: without the “Ltd”) was registered “in the US”. It told me the registered office address is in Florida, USA. It quoted the Florida address then on the Stirling Health” (again, no “Ltd”) website (https://web.archive.org/web/20170705024734/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). The company stated it isn’t actually registered in Florida, though, after I pointed out there’s no Florida-registered company called “Stirling Health Ltd” or “Stirling Health,” according to the official register at Sunbiz (http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/).
  6. The company refused to disclose where exactly in the USA its registered, explaining in an email it was “confidential, and commercially sensitive” information. Again, the response would be laughable, if wasn’t so serious. Any legitimate business would be happy to both disclose its name and say where it’s registered. Both pieces of information should be public. In short, is Stirling Health Ltd a genuine company? If so, where exactly in the USA is it registered? It’s not enough to simply say “in the US”.
  7. The ASA’s response on this point was disappointing: the regulator wouldn’t be taking it further, said Ms Henwood in an email. She added: “The Code [the CAP Code] states that marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. For marketing communications that quote prices for advertised products, material information includes the identity (for example, a trading name) and geographical address of the marketer. While we appreciate your concern that it isn’t clear where the company is registered, we note that the advertisers have included a trading name and contact details for consumers to get in contact with them. Given this, we consider that the ad is unlikely to mislead consumers on the basis that you suggest and does not break the rules.”
  8. At date of publication the Stirling Health website continues not to disclose where the company is registered. One change, though: the Florida address has disappeared. It now specifies an address in central London: 88-90 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8PG (https://web.archive.org/web/20180206063513/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). This is merely the address of a virtual office, you won’t be surprised to learn.
  9. A fake limited company flogging dubious “health products” from national newspaper ads, and hiding behind a virtual office address – it reminds me of Health Broadcast Ltd, a firm I first wrote about on 15 August 2017. Private Eye recently reported my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by that fake limited company for “detox foot patches” (see last post).
  10. Oh, this isn’t the first time a Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX has come to the attention of the ASA. In 2010, the regulator banned one of its ads for misleading health claims (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7195031/Advert-for-pills-that-guaranteed-sex-life-of-you-dreams-is-banned.html). It isn’t just on Health Broadcast Ltd where the Mirror continues to fail its readers, therefore. How much or how little due diligence did the newspaper do on the latest Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX?
  11. Further evidence of how little: the Mirror’s excellent Andrew Penman wrote about Stirling Health Ltd in his column ten years ago, when the ASA again censured several, not just one, of its ads for misleading health claims (https://www.mirror.co.uk/opinion/money-opinion/p-s-investigates/triple-dose-of-health-rubbish-from-guernsey-534213).
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Private Eye reports exposés of national newspaper ads by fake limited company for “detox foot patches”

  1. The current issue of Private Eye (1462) reports my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by a fake limited company for “detox foot patches” (see previous post and the reference there).
  2. Private Eye is the UK’s number one best-selling news and current affairs magazine.
  3. You won’t find the report – or much else from the magazine – on the Eye website because the online presence is minimal. Heres a scanned copy of the page from my subscription copy – see top right corner: Private Eye 1462.

Ad again for “detox foot patches” in Daily Mirror – despite Dr Miriam Stoppard’s warning

  1. On 19 December 2017, Daily Mirror health columnist Dr Miriam Stoppard rightly dismissed “detox foot patches” as a sham. But something she didn’t mention: her newspaper carried ads for them earlier last year (see 19 December 2017 post).
  2. Well, the same advertiser, Health Broadcast Ltd, is today (17 January 2018) back in the Mirror with a full-page ad for… “detox foot patches”: Daily Mirror 17 Jan 2018.
  3. Why does the Daily Mirror continue to fail its readers this way?

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.

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.

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.