Digital Spy: Why Dragon’s Den’s latest episode was so damaging

It’s caused backlash among the chronic illness community.

Digital Spy By Hollie-Anne Brooks

Extracts

When a young entrepreneur popped up on Dragon’s Den and claimed that a “personal healing journey” that included ear seeds had aided her recovery from ME within 12 months, most of us living with the condition rolled our eyes, as there’s famously no scientific cure for the condition. What Giselle Boxer presented were needle-less acupuncture “ear seeds”. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture seeds trigger pressure points – and, from personal experience, acupuncture has certainly helped me temporarily sleep better.

That Giselle is confident that the seeds helped her is wonderful, but also anecdotal. To present her experience as some sort of ‘cure’, with no science to back it up, is concerning for those of us with ME, who are often not taken seriously by medical professionals or the general public. (We reached out to Dragons’ Den for comment, but have not received one at the time of publishing).

“If a tiny stick-on seed featured on Dragon’s Den can cure everything, why are we not whacking them all over our pressure points and skipping off to do a full day’s work followed by an ultra marathon?”

Editorially, the BBC has made a grave decision in allowing a product to seem that, coupled with various wellness practises, it could somehow cure an illness, without scientific backing.

What was shown on television for several minutes has collectively cost those of us with ME days and days worth of energy, filling in complaint forms and having unneeded conversations with people about the reality of living with our condition.

Dr Charles Shepard, Hon Medical Advisor for the ME Association said:

“The way in which Dragons’ Den has been used to promote an unproven treatment for ME/CFS has, not surprisingly, caused a great deal of upset and concern in the ME patient community. People with ME/CFS are fed up with the way in which products like this are regularly being promoted when there is no sound evidence from proper placebo-controlled clinical trials to confirm that they are safe and effective.

“These sort of expensive commercial products and devices should not be promoted to very vulnerable sick people until they have been properly assessed for safety and efficacy in clinical trials – in exactly the same way that drug treatments are.”

In response to this story, a BBC spokesperson said:

Dragons’ Den features products from entrepreneurs and is not an endorsement of them. Dragons’ Den shows real businesses pitching to investors to lift the lid on what happens in the business world. This episode features an entrepreneur sharing their own, personal experience that led to a business creation.”

ME patients don’t have to prove their illness to anyone. But to present one person’s journey unchallenged has a tangible, damaging impact on others.

Media Coverage

Skeptic.org – Dragons’ Den’s uncritical promotion of ear seeds is an insult to ME/CFS patients like me

**TW- Upsetting content surrounding euthanasia**

You tubeThe Problem with Dragons’ Den Investing in Pseudoscience

The MirrorDragons’ Den ear seeds scandal hopeful ‘likely’ broke advertising rules claims watchdog

Woman Health MagazineME/ CFS is finally headline news – but we need more research Trigger warning

26/1/24Pulling episode not enough – The Mirror

25/1/24BBC News

25/1/24 – Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon Medical Advisor has been invited onto a follow up programme on the BBC.

We understand that ITV This Morning will be covering ME/CFS and the Dragons Den Accu Seeds story at 11am today. The MEA has been asked to provide a statement but we have not been invited to appear on the programme.

25/1/24 More coverage in the Daily Mail

25/1/24Yahoo news

25/1/24The Guardian

25/1/24The Mirror

24/1/24Metro

24/1/24The Times

24/1/24 The Mail online

23/1/24 – The Sun

ITV News: Dragons’ Den: ME charities criticise BBC show for ‘promoting unproven treatment’

“BBC show Dragons’ Den has been criticised by myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) charities after an entrepreneur with the condition pitched a medical product she says helped improve her own health

ME charities, including the ME Association, have criticised Dragons’ Den for promoting an “unproven treatment” for the condition.

A BBC spokesperson told ITV News: “Dragons’ Den features products from entrepreneurs and is not an endorsement of them.”

23/1/24ITV picks up the story and speaks to Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon medical Advisor

22/1/24 – Open letter sent to the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee. The letter has been signed by the following organisations: //

Action for M.E.

Physios for ME

Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon Medical Advisor, The ME Association

Denise Howorth Kiklees and Calderdale Independent ME Support Group (KCIMSEG)

Long Covid Support

ME Local Network (MELN)

Mark Harper, Chair, Cambridge ME Support Group

Susan Jones, Coordinator, Cambridgeshire Rural ME Support Group (CrMEtea)

Denise Spreag, #MEAction UK

Janet Sylvester, #MEAction Scotland

25% ME GROUP

Tymes Trust

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

22/1/24 – The MEA is writing to the BBC today

21/1/24 – The MEA has asked the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to investigate the therapeutic claims being made.

Further reading

Article: Daily Mail Online

Article: The Sun

Article: The Sheffield Star

Sheffield ME + Fibromyalgia group respond to the Star’s article

Edzard Ernst: Dragons’ Den contestant gets offer from all six Dragons for an Ear Acupressure Device

Leave a Reply