I sent the following letter, dated 21 February 2018, to the Advertising Standards Authority and copied to Healthcare Improvement Scotland. In the letter I outline concerns about the advertising of the Glasgow Memory Clinic:
Advertising Standards Authority
Mid City Place,
71 High Holborn
Dear Advertising Standards Authority,
Re: The Glasgow Memory Clinic Ltd.
I wish to make a complaint about the misleading and potentially harmful advertising made by the Glasgow Memory Clinic
In April 2017 I wrote to Healthcare Improvement Scotland about my concerns. Below I append my original letter and the e-mail response that I had from the CEO of Healthcare Improvement Scotland who advised me to contact ASA.
Since that time I have regularly come across adverts from The Glasgow Memory Clinic on television and full-page in a number of national Newspapers. As an NHS doctor I find that most of my patients have noticed these adverts which they tell me are now also on Social Media.
The Glasgow Memory Clinic is fast becoming the way that the Scottish public are “learning” about memory loss and dementia. I am concerned that the information provided is misleading and is inculcating widespread fear amongst our older generation. The adverts, in my opinion, are encouraging over-medicalisation and unrealistic medicine to the extent that we now have inverse care: those who are actually living with dementia are finding services stretched beyond capacity. Significant harm is resulting.
Specific concerns that I would wish the ASA to investigate:
(1) The use of the word “Alzheimer’s” as a proxy for all memory loss without explanation that not all memory loss is either due to Alzheimer’s disease or indeed dementia. The potential for false alarm, and inappropriate medicalisation is most significant, as at least 50% of those with mild memory problems will never develop dementia.
(2) The use of the word “screening” and “pre-screening” with explanations only of the benefits and not of the potential harms
(3) Lack of transparency about who is sponsoring these adverts and the research trials which they seem to be based upon<
(4) Lack of clarity that research criteria are NOT the same as clinical criteria. By definition research is trying to establish scientific understandings. It is only once proven that research findings form part of evidence-based-approaches and enter the clinical domain.
(5) Lack of clarity about the difference between prevention and early diagnosis of dementia
I look forward to the guidance of the ASA on this matter. I have copied to the CEO of Healthcare Improvement Scotland and would be grateful if you could forward any investigations findings not just to me but also to Healthcare Improvement Scotland.
Dr Peter J. Gordon
CC: Mr R Pearson, Chief Executive, Healthcare Improvement Scotland