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Acupuncture and craniosacral therapy ads banned over long Covid treatment claims

Three ads for acupuncture and craniosacral therapists have been banned for making misleading claims about their ability to treat long Covid.

A paid-for Facebook ad and an Instagram post for Jo Llewellyn, a craniosacral therapist, included the claim that craniosacral therapists treat long Covid, while an Instagram post for Peachy Acupuncture read: “Long Covid at its worst is life changing and debilitating. Gentle acupuncture and b12 [sic] shots can chip away at the fatigue, brain fog and gut issues to support healing…”

A Facebook ad and website for Serenity Acupuncture, in Bude, also said acupuncture could be used to treat long Covid.

An ad for Jo Llewellyn included long Covid in a list of issues that could be treated by craniosacral therapy (ASA/PA)
An ad for Jo Llewellyn included long Covid in a list of issues that could be treated by craniosacral therapy (ASA/PA)

The Advertising Standards Authority investigated the ads as part of its wider work on long Covid treatments following intelligence gathered by the watchdog.

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Jo Llewellyn said many of their clients had symptoms of long Covid, but were all under the supervision of their doctors.

Following notification of the investigation by the ASA, they acknowledged that they had “underestimated the level of evidence that was required” to make efficacy claims about their treatment and long Covid, and had removed the ads.

The ASA said: “We considered consumers would understand the ads to mean that craniosacral therapy was an effective treatment for long Covid. We therefore expected to see robust scientific evidence to substantiate the claims.

“We had seen no evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of craniosacral therapy as a treatment for long Covid.

“Whilst we welcomed Jo Llewellyn Craniosacral Therapist’s willingness to remove the posts, in the absence of such evidence, we concluded the ads were misleading and therefore breached the Code.”

Peachy Acupuncture said they were careful about the wording they used in the ad and did not say they could cure long Covid, adding that there was “significant evidence” that acupuncture could help reduce symptoms.

But the ASA said: “We considered consumers would understand the ad to mean that acupuncture could contribute to the treatment of long Covid, and in particular the symptoms including fatigue, brain fog and gastrointestinal issues. We therefore expected to see robust scientific evidence to substantiate the claims.”

It said it “did not consider that the evidence met the standard we required for the type of claim being made”.

The ASA said: “Serenity Acupuncture provided a link to a resource by the BAC on long Covid. It outlined their position on acupuncture and its effects on the immune system, but stated that although they had started collecting data to measure the effect of acupuncture on long Covid, it was too early for results from clinical trials.

“In any case, we did not consider that a resource was sufficient evidence to substantiate efficacy claims that acupuncture could treat long Covid.”