The posts, made online by medical companies, were a “straight breach” of the rules regarding products sold to treat or prevent the disease, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said.
No treatments have yet been approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), meaning that companies cannot make medical claims on their products relating to coronavirus.
The ASA investigations were fast-tracked as part of a focus on prioritising and tackling ads that exploit health-related anxieties during the pandemic.
Two Instagram posts made in March by Cosmetic Medical Advice employees suggested that a “super immune system booster” IV drip was an effective way to protect against viral infections and that the clinic followed the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A similar page on the REVIV company website titled “Coronavirus & The Real Pandemic” also claimed to offer protection against the disease through a “Megaboost” IV therapy treatment.
The post read: “As a doctor, I truly believe in the power of prevention and REVIV, one of the largest global preventative healthy movements currently in existence.
“If we...feed our bodies correctly with more of the right nutrients and less of the wrong nutrients, then we can ensure that our immune system is working at a protective and effective level.”
REVIV UK Ltd said that the ad was a blog post which was written in response to customer queries and was intended to be “purely educational”.
The companies were ordered to take the posts down by the ASA, who consulted with the MHRA, and deemed them in breach of guidelines. It comes as the MHRA reports an increasing number of bogus medical products claiming to cure coronavirus that are being sold online.
At the start of April the watchdog said it was investigating 14 cases of such unlicensed items being sold through unauthorised websites and had already disabled several domain names and social media accounts. A spokesman for the ASA said that a further enforcement notice would be put out to suppliers of IV drips, ensuring that they did not breach the rules relating to Covid-19.
REVIV said in a statement: “Preventative healthcare company REVIV is the leading global supplier of IV therapies and genetic analysis for health. It has recently switched from commercial operations and turned non-profit with a view to help the global effort against the Coronavirus. As well as opening a free medical consult service and supplying vitamins to the vulnerable REVIV has also been publishing blogs written by an in-house doctor, Dr Michael Barnish, to offer advice and assistance, not only for those worried about COVID19 but about their health generally.
“In early March Dr Barnish published a blog on the REVIV site called ‘Coronavirus & The Real Pandemic’ which discussed the idea that preventative healthcare may protect us from disease by supporting our immune systems. Dr Barnish suggested that one of the ways we can boost our immunity is by increasing levels of Vitamin C, this is a common and widely accepted suggestion and often repeated by medical professionals, health organisations and the press. Dr Barnish mentioned studies that have researched taking very high doses of Vitamin C to treat viruses, like COVID19, with positive results and that have been widely reported on.
“In this blog Dr Barnish suggested ways in which Vitamin C levels could be increased, including a REVIV treatment, the ‘Megaboost’ IV therapy, which is a mixture of vitamins and antioxidants. Vitamins introduced to the system intravenously have a 100% absorption rate and so Dr Barnish was keen to offer relevant and authoritative advice. However, the Advertising Standard Authority received two complaints concerned that the blog was suggesting the ‘Megaboost’ therapy could cure the Coronavirus. This is of course, not the case. As a medical professional Dr Barnish’s intention is not mislead or state an untruth that might put someone’s health at risk. Because of his preventive health expertise he only wanted to suggest ideas that would help boost a person’s immune system during this time. But having been found in breach of the ASA Code of Conduct REVIV have removed the blog from their site.
“However, REVIV and Dr Barnish still believe that Vitamin C, whilst not licensed for any treatment other than a deficiency like Scurvy, is beneficial, supports our immune systems and is useful for preventative healthcare.”
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