BBC pulls Dragons’ Den episode after ‘unfounded claims’ product could fix condition which has no cure


The BBC has pulled an episode of Dragons’ Den from iPlayer over concerns about “unfounded claims” that a product could cure ME. 

In the episode, which first aired on 18 January, businesswoman Giselle Boxer said she had used “diet, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and ear seeds” to help her recovery from ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Her experience with ear seeds – tiny needle-free acupressure devices – prompted her to develop her brand Acu Seeds, which received offers from all six of the Dragons.

But ME campaigners said she made “unfounded claims” about the effectiveness of the treatment.

On Thursday, a BBC spokesperson said: “We’re taking the concerns raised seriously, so we are reviewing the episode and therefore it’s currently not available on iPlayer.”

The broadcaster earlier defended the programme, saying it “features products from entrepreneurs and is not an endorsement of them” and that Ms Boxer was sharing a “personal experience that led to a business creation”.

An open letter, organised by the charity Action for ME, to the chairs of two House of Commons select committees said it was “very concerned” that her pitch suggested the product was “responsible for her recovery and should therefore be considered an effective treatment”.

ME is a long-term condition with symptoms including extreme tiredness, sleep issues and concentration problems. It does not have a cure, but there are treatments that may help manage it, according to the NHS.

Ear seeds are small needle-free acupressure devices. Pic: iStock

During the show, Ms Boxer told the potential investors she had established the product after being diagnosed with ME when she was 26.

She said: “Four years ago I was diagnosed with ME. I went from working in a top advertising agency with a busy social life and exercising regularly to being mostly housebound, unable to walk for more than five minutes without having to get back into bed.

“I was told by doctors that I would never recover, work again or have children.

“I went on a personal healing journey using diet, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and ear seeds. Using this combination, I believe, aided my recovery within 12 months.”

Her Acu Seeds product was described as a “DIY needle-free ear acupuncture for anxiety, migraines, hormonal issues, insomnia, weight loss and more”.

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Concerned campaign groups said that, as the episode was aired in prime time on BBC One, they were worried a large audience would have heard the pitch – which they alleged “amounts to an unfounded claim that this form of alternative medicine can cure ME”.

The Action for ME letter added: “Sadly, there is currently no known effective treatment for ME. There has been a distinct paucity of research into this disease, compared to other long-term conditions, which means that ME is still without a cure.

“As a result, we remind people to only take medical advice from appropriately qualified healthcare professionals and to ensure that any treatment decisions are evidence-based and fully informed.”

The letter also said broadcasters must make “every effort to ensure that content is accurate and does not contain misleading and potentially dangerous information”.

Acu Seeds has been contacted by the Press Association for comment.

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