20 June 2020

The very first statement of the Spinoff's recently published article “Poking Holes in Acupuncture” by D.Ryan and J. Harper of the Society for Science Based Healthcare (SSBH) is untrue. Why then should we believe that any of the rest of the article has any factual basis?

At a meeting in 2016 between D Ryan and Mark Honeychurch of SSBH, representatives from AcNZ, ACC and the NZ School of Acupuncture and TCM, Mr Ryan and Mr Honeychurch themselves admitted that they had no training in science, research or medicine. It was after that meeting that AcNZ decided to no longer engage with SSBH. When approached by Mr Harper to respond to a list of his questions for his "research programme" we requested that he provide us with the details of the tertiary education facility he was working with, together with evidence of his ethics approval. Neither was forthcoming.

According to Ryan and Harper, “The World Health Organisation pulled its support for acupuncture in 2014.”

On the 7th May 2020, the President of Acupuncture NZ, Robin Kerr, received an email from the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies (WFAS) which reads as follows:

“The World Health Organization will hold the 147th session of the Executive Board on Friday, 22 May 2020, at 12:00 (CET). As an NGO in official relations with WHO, WFAS is invited to send delegate(s) to this meeting. Please find the invitation as attached.”

That does not sound as though support for acupuncture has been pulled. Nor does the statement on page 27 of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023.

“T&CM practices vary widely from country to country with certain practices (sometimes called modalities) regarded differently depending on the culture, understanding and accessibility of conventional medicine. A practice where significant progress has been made is acupuncture. Although acupuncture was originally a feature of traditional Chinese medicine, it is now used worldwide. According to reports supplied by 129 countries, 80% of them now recognize the use of acupuncture.”

In their article Ryan and Harper again use their favourite quote that acupuncture is theatrical placebo. What they overlook in their quoting of ACC statistics is that only about 45% of the treatment provided by Acupuncture NZ members is claimed through ACC. The remaining 55% of people aattend the clinics throughout the country and pay for treatment themselves. We have pointed this out to SSBH on several occasions but they choose to overlook it as it doesn’t suit their agenda. Clearly our members are masters of persuasion as after we returned to practice following the move to Level 2 Covid-19 lockdown, our own member survey showed that the majority of practitioners very quickly returned to at least 60% of their pre-covid figures. 20% of our practitioners were at 90% or higher with some even being busier than before lockdown.

Apart from our individual clinic websites, most of us advertise very little. We have little need to as our diaries fill quickly by those who have no doubt that acupuncture is of value. By far the majority of those who attend our clinics are referred by friends or family members who feel they have benefited from treatment received. Referring specifically to ACC claims, increasing numbers of people are being referred by their GPs or other health practitioners who have heard directly from their patients that acupuncture has helped. For the last few years, acupuncture has also been included on several of the pathways in the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners “Health Navigator” tool that is used by GPs when deciding on a course of action for a particular condition.

Acupuncture is being used extensively in hospitals throughout the world, particularly in those who provide care for patients with cancer. This was very clearly demonstrated in the 30 minute Acupuncture Now Foundation documentary “Getting to the Point” about children at Orange County Childrens Hospital receiving acupuncture to assist in their treatment of different forms of cancer. 

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in the US has incorporated the use of acupuncture into the treatment programmes of many of their patients as do many other hospitals throughout the world.

Perhaps they too have been bluffed.

 More examples of quality research into the use of acupuncture can be found on the Evidence Based Acupuncture website

 Both Acupuncture NZ and NZASA are currently working closely with representatives from the Ministry of Health to have Chinese medicine, of which acupuncture is a very important component, registered under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act. We are expecting progress on this in the next few weeks.

For more information about acupuncture here in New Zealand and the wider global picture, please contact AcNZ President, Robin Kerr, via this website.