1 Dec 2017

Most acupuncture websites mislead - study

11:18 pm on 1 December 2017

More than 100 New Zealand acupuncture websites make misleading medical claims, a new study says.

Acupuncturist, acupuncture

Photo: 123RF

The study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal shows the extent of apparently misleading claims, including claims around cancer.

Study author Daniel Ryan, of the Society for Science Based Healthcare, said despite complaints many companies were allowed to make misleading health claims and receive substantial ACC funding.

"These advertisements are a danger to the public," he said.

"I have made complaints to both ACC and acupuncture's professional bodies in the past, but with no real success - the companies have been allowed to continue making their misleading claims, and still receive ACC funding."

The Medicines Act prohibits the publication of advertisements that claim a treatment can prevent, mitigate or cure any of a list of serious conditions, such as infertility and cancer. The study looked at claims being made by acupuncturists in New Zealand.

The study found the three most frequent claims regarded the treatment or prevention of mental illness, infertility and arthritis. Combined, these claims appeared on three quarters of the websites that were examined.

Some sites claimed acupuncture could treat or prevent cancer.

It also found that figures released under the Official Information Act showed ACC spent $33.2m on acupuncture claims in the 2016/17 year, up from $15.6m in 2009/10 - with a total of $210m in the last decade.

"The best scientific evidence suggests that acupuncture is no more than a theatrical placebo.

"We need to ensure that taxpayers' money is only used to pay for evidence-based treatments - it's not just acupuncture that's a problem. The government needs to review its funding of acupuncture, and stop wasting money.

"I strongly encourage New Zealand's acupuncture professional bodies to publicly condemn companies with websites which use any terms covered by section 58 of the Medicines Act."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs