Dragons' Den: ME charities criticise BBC show for 'promoting unproven treatment'

The latest season of Dragons' Den began airing last week. Credit: PA/YouTube/BBC

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.

Giselle Boxer, 31, appeared in the first episode of the 21st season of Dragon's Den - a television programme which offers entrepreneurs a chance to present their businesses and secure investment from a panel of investors, known on the show as Dragons.

Ms Boxer pitched her business, Acu Seeds, which is centered on a needle free ear acupuncture product that can help aid health issues, including anxiety, migraines and hormonal issues.

The Sheffield-based businesswoman explained she had established the product after seeking treatments when she was diagnosed with ME at the age of 26.

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There is currently no medical cure for ME, although treatments are available to help people manage their condition.

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.

"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."

ITV News has approached Acu Seeds for comment.

Action for ME said its chief executive had written directly to BBC Director-General Tim Davie to express her concerns in the way the Dragons' Den episode and Ms Boxer's website "suggest that 'acu seeds' are an effective form of treatment and the dangers associated with promoting misleading information relating to health conditions".

A separate open letter, which was coordinated by Action For ME in collaboration with other ME charities, has been submitted to the respective chair's of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and Health and Social Care Committee.

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."

Ms Boxer's appearance on the show marked the first time that all six Dragons put in an offer for a stake in an entrepreneur's business.

She eventually decided to pick Steven Bartlett as her business partner, after explaining she had been told she would meet a man called Steven that was going to be really important in her life.

What is ME?

ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is described by the NHS as a "long-term condition with a wide range of symptoms".

The ME Association adds that ME is a "multi-system disease that can have a devastating impact on functional ability and quality of life".

Women are more likely to develop ME, but the condition can affect anyone, including children.

ME can make it hard for people to carry out everyday tasks by causing symptoms, such as extreme tiredness, muscle or joint pain and headaches.

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