Advertising Standards Authority
Adjudication on Dr Harald Gaier

Dr Harald Gaier

First Floor
22 Harley Street
London
W1G 9PL

Date: 11 June 2014
Media: Internet (on own site)
Sector: Health and beauty

Number of complaints: 1
Complaint Ref: A13-251722

Background

Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.

Ad

Claims on the home page of www.drgaier.com stated "Dr Harald Gaier ... Scientifically proven alternative medicine, paired with orthodox diagnostic tests.  Dr Gaier is someone who is frequently referred to by others on matters relating to complementary and alternative medical and diagnostic techniques. For six years he served on the Research Committee of the Prince of Wales' Foundation for Integrated Health as a naturopathic physician. Most recently he has held the appointment of Director of Medical Research at two major Clinics in London (The Hale Clinic and The Diagnostic Clinic). His published work includes the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Homeopathy and peer-reviewed papers on gut-related medical research as well as medical economics.  He believes that there are non-orthodox medical treatments for virtually any disorder, which have been shown as successful in hard-science backed, published investigations. He has published reviews regularly on such investigations for the past fourteen years and continue [sic] to do so in some of today's leading publications.  He does not dismiss out of hand any traditional therapeutic approach that can, perhaps, not yet be fully explained in terms that accord with Western science.  Dr Gaier is fully registered in the UK in all the major alternative medical disciplines:

Under the "Tests" web page, it stated "Food Allergy Test.  Food intolerance can be an important factor in many acute and chronic conditions, producing delayed onset symptoms ranging from IBS, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, weight problems, hyperactivity, skin irritations and anxiety. The FACTest measures all types of immunological reactions to a total of 233 different foods, including common seasonings, colourings, additives and beverages from a single blood sample.  Gut Permeability Profile.  A drink containing PEG 400, a mixture of eleven sizes of molecules, is taken. The different sizes of molecules pass through the gut wall and into the circulation with differing levels of ease. All the urine passed over the next six hours is collected. The quantity of each molecular size of PEG in the urine collection are measured and we can then reconstruct an absorption profile.  Gut Fermentation Profile.  The patient is given 1 gramme of glucose in hardened gelatine capsules (2 x 500mg capsules) with 4 grammes of glucose dissolved in 80-100ml of water. The glucose solution prevents the capsules from disintegrating in the stomach and this ensures that an adequate amount of glucose passes into the duodenum. A blood sample is taken one hour later and the plasma is analysed for simple and complex alcohols along with short chain fatty acids. Comments are added when abnormalities of bacterial fermentation or a possible yeast overgrowth are indicated by the results".

Issue

The complainant challenged whether:

1.  the ad misleadingly implied that the advertiser was a medical doctor rather than a practitioner specialising in complementary and alternative medicine;

2.  the claim "Scientifically proven medical alternative medicine, paired with orthodox diagnostic tests” was misleading and could be substantiated, because they did not believe that the treatments and diagnostic tests were either scientifically proven or orthodox; and

3.  the claims for the efficacy of the three diagnostic tests described by the advertiser were misleading and could be substantiated.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

1. Dr Harald Gaier stated he had studied homoeopathic medicine in South Africa and was awarded the degree of "Doctor of Homoeopathic Medicine".  Furthermore, he commented that he was registered with the S.A. Allied Health Professions Council and was also awarded the honorific title "doctor" in Austria.  Nevertheless, he stated that his website made it clear that he was not registered with the General Medical Council (GMC), but was however, on the General Osteopathic Council register.  

2. & 3. Dr Harald Gaier stated that the Royal Society of Medicine initiated a series of conferences on medicine and complementary therapies.  He commented that the South African model for co-existence between orthodox and natural medicine were discussed and recorded in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, published in 1988.

Dr Harald Gaier further stated that the tests he used were conducted at registered laboratories, which used validated test procedures.   

Assessment

1.  Upheld

We acknowledged that the advertiser was awarded the degree of "Doctor of Homoeopathic Medicine" in South Africa and undertook further qualifications in Austria.  However, we noted that this information was provided on the page headed "New Patients" and not on the home page, where the claims appeared. Furthermore, while the home page stated he was not registered with the GMC, this was not made sufficiently clear.  We noted that the statement was presented at the bottom of the home page and below the text that explained his background in complementary and alternative medical and diagnostic techniques.  We particularly noted that the text described him as a "nauropathic physician" and that "He believes that there are non-orthodox medical treatments for virtually any disorder".  Given that he was described as a "physician" and the repeated reference to him as "Dr", we considered that consumers could infer that he held a general medical qualification.    As this was not the case we considered that the ad was misleading.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading Advertising) and 3.9 (Qualification).   

2. & 3. Upheld

We acknowledged the advertiser's reference to an article featured in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, and their comment that the tests they used were held in registered laboratories that used validated test procedures.  However, in the absence of any robust documentary evidence, including details of any relevant trials, relating to the services offered by the advertiser, we considered that the claim "Scientifically proven medical alternative medicine, paired with orthodox diagnostic tests" and the claims for the efficacy of the three diagnostic tests, had not been substantiated and were misleading.  

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading Advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.13 (Exaggeration) and 12.1 (Medicines, Medical Devices, Health-related Products and Beauty Products).  

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form.  We told Dr Harald Gaier that his future advertising must not imply that he was a medical doctor.   Furthermore, we instructed that the claim "Scientifically proven medical alternative medicine, paired with orthodox diagnostic tests" and the claims relating to the three diagnostic tests be removed from his advertising, unless he possessed robust evidence to substantiate the claims.

This page was posted on June 15, 2014.

Links to Recommended Companies

  • PharmacyChecker.com: Compare drug prices and save money at verified online pharmacies.
  • ConsumerLab.com: Evaluates the quality of dietary supplement and herbal products.
  • Amazon.com: Discount prices, huge inventory, and superb customer service.
  • OnlyMyEmail: Award-winning anti-spam services.
  • 10 Types: Website design, development, and hosting with superb technical support.