Acupuncture websites are misleading

December 3, 2017

Categories: Pseudoscience, CAM , Tags: Acupuncture

Daniel Ryan from the Society for Science Based Healthcare wrote a study looking at acupuncture advertising (opens new window) in NZ. He ran a targeted search (opens new window) for New Zealand websites making claims about being able to treat a list of conditions for which advertising claims are restricted by the Medicines Act.

There's no big surprise here - many websites were found to be making false claims. In all, 101 websites were checked and most were making a wide variety of dodgy claims. 96% of the infringing sites made claims about mental health, 84% about fertility and 73% about arthritis.

Worryingly, 22% talked about treating diabetes, 15% alcoholism and 11% cancer.

There are two governing bodies for acupuncture in NZ - Acupuncture NZ and the NZ Acupuncture Standards Authority. Daniel checked the websites of board members of both organisations, and found most of them to be in breach of the Medicines Act.

ACC pays out for acupuncture treatment if the acupuncturist has an Annual Practising certificate from one of these two bodies. Unfortunately these bodies are not proactively policing their members to ensure they are within the law. Complaints to the standards bodies by the Society for Science Based Healthcare have basically been ignored.

It would be great to see these bodies taking their responsibilities seriously, and revoke certificates from anyone not complying with New Zealand's laws. This would stop them being able to receive government money, which would be a great incentive for them to behave. However, this seems unlikely given that the people running the standards bodies are ignorant enough of the law that their own websites are part of the problem.