Acupuncture clinics in New Zealand “routinely” claim to be able to treat much wider array of health conditions than is clinically justifiable or allowed by law, new research has found.
The study homed in on 101 clinic websites found to have made a therapeutic claim which may breach the Medicines Act.
The Act bans the publication of advertisements that claim a treatment can prevent, mitigate or cure a long list of serious health conditions including mental illness, infertility and arthritis.
But the study found 74 sites claimed acupuncture could treat one or more of these health conditions.
Others claimed to be able to help with diabetes, heart disease and cancer and other conditions on the banned list.
Meanwhile, 34 websites contained testimonials which are also prohibited under the Act, according to the paper published this month in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
The study notes most of the clinics are eligible to claim publicly-funded payments from the Accident Compensation Corporation.
The ACC administers New Zealand’s no-fault accidental injury scheme and spent $32 million on acupuncture treatments in 2015-16.
This is despite its own reviews which found insufficient or inconclusive evidence the therapy is beneficial for musculoskeletal pain, other than some positive evidence for neck and shoulder pain, and limited evidence it can help with mental health issues.
The study’s findings reveal that New Zealand acupuncturists “routinely claim much wider benefits for their practices than is justified by the evidence or allowed by law,” wrote author Daniel Ryan from the Society for Science Based Healthcare.
“Acupuncture NZ and the NZASA (New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority) appear to be failing to protect New Zealanders from potentially harmful information,” he wrote, calling on the two bodies to demand members withdraw claims that aren’t backed by rigorous evidence or face sanctions.