Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is this dubious Seven Seas marketing trickery?

At the risk of invoking a variant of Dr*T's First Theory, I'd honestly like your opinion on the following:

This week, I blogged about the GAIT trial, or Glucosamine/Chondroitin Arthritis Intervention Trial, which was a large randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted at several sites across the USA comparing glucosamine & chondroitin with placebo and paracetomol for arthritis.

We've got the trial out of the way and we know that the results, although interesting, really confirm what we already knew about glucosamine, in that it's not a magic pill. It's just a pill. A pill that us highly suggestive arthrites rely on, perhaps, for pain relief as placebo, but with no actual effect.

Now comes the odd part.

If you type "gait trial" in Google in UK, the first hit is If you go to you are presented with a very professional website, made to look like it has some affiliation with the GAIT trial mentioned above. However, there are only two pages and no details about who has written it or who they are representing, but it helpfully gives us a few links at the bottom to where we can purchase some glucosamine.

Firstly, the pages information is considerably more positive than the trial researchers indicated - in fact, it says the direct opposite; compare
Dietary Supplements Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin Fare No Better than Placebo
(NCCAM press release)

Secondly, the links at the bottom of the page are suspect - the first two, for Boots and Health Perception don't work, but the third for Joint Care does and it takes you to the Seven Seas Joint Care "Everyone needs healthy joints" website, advertising all manner of glucosamine pills.

Is it a coincidence that only the Seven Seas link works? Well, possibly, but another website, also designed by Two's Company Design Studio Ltd, which discussed the GUIDE study , a small European study that gave weakly positive results for glucosamine, the same thing happens. As an observation, whoever "sabotaged" the links did so in two different ways on the two sites, implying that only one link is supposed to work - the Seven Seas one.

Is this Seven Seas gently directing people to its site using false, hyped-up information, but without explicitly having to make the claims themselves?

I'm genuinely interested in what you think.



  1. Hard to tell. Health Perception is now Love your joints. Both the original URL and the one for Boots had been written badly - which does look odd when Seven Seas was OK.

    It does look like a pattern for the 2nd, given that the other looks so similar.

    However, there have been rumblings for some time that supplement companies have an 'education site' which links to the shop which is notionally another site, so they don't breach any regulations. That way, you are still in line with ASA and MHRA which is dandy.

    It's even better when charities get involved and issue endorsements that you aren't allowed to make.

  2. Nice spot Dr* T. If it is a coincidence, it's certainly a startling one. Two websites that not only link to both each other and to a Seven Seas webpage, but also both have broken links to two other sites similar to Seven Seas?

    I can imagine being incompetent enough to mistakenly insert spaces into a url or to copy and paste the wrong link (because I am actually that incompetent), but it's a bit unfortunate that both these errors involved the same links on two different, but linked, websites.

    Maybe Two's Company have no idea these mistakes have occurred and are blissfully unaware of their repeated, unfortunate errors?

  3. Check out the first paragraph on chondroitin on the Gait Study site. Then take a gander at the JointCare Active Ingredients page on chondroitin. The first two lines have been cut and pasted into the 'education site'.

    At the very least, they have been using the JointCare site for background.