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Standards for regulation of acupuncture to low in Australia


The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says the standard has been set too low for the registration of Chinese medicine practitioners.

AMA president Steve Hambleton says the association wants the same standards held for Chinese medicine practitioners as doctors.

"We believe the registration standards are quite low and too low," he said.

"We've actually argued that continuous professional development should be the same as a doctor - 20 hours per year. The recency of practice needs to be the same."

Mr Hambleton says there is also a concerning language barrier.

"The English language standard is something that we hold dear in the medical profession - you need to be able to communicate with your local public," he said.

In a bid to raise the standards, from July this year it will be mandatory for Chinese medicine practitioners to be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Issue of 'legitimacy'

But two medical academics are critical of the move.

Associate Professor Hubertus Jersmann from the University of Adelaide says while registration may reduce some illegal practices, it gives credibility to medicines that have not necessarily been proven.

"If the Government registers this medicine, many of the populous will think that it's equal to an approval of what they are doing as okay," he told The World Today.

"They're giving legitimacy to something that hasn't been legitimised.

"Just because for some reason this becomes popular, lots of people want to do unproven, potentially unsafe things on themselves which is their prerogative, I don't think the Government should then say 'oh well, let's regulate it then, at least it's better than unregulated'.

"It needs to [come] down to principles and the principle is they cannot show evidence that it's safe and efficacious and they seem to refuse to want to do so."

Scientific evidence

Professor Charlie Xue, the head of the new Chinese Medicine Board and the head of Health Sciences at RMIT University, says regulation will lead to increased scientific evidence about the effectiveness of Chinese medicine.

"All healthcare interventions including Chinese medicine needs ongoing assessment of efficacy and safety and being a clinical researcher myself, I am aware that not all Western medical approaches are evidence-based either," he said.

"The development of Chinese medicine has been over a very long period of time and the diagnostic methods which has been effectively used to guide clinical practice, they are different from the Western medical approach, but it doesn't mean they are wrong."

Professor Xue says the point of regulation is not to boost credibility, but to ensure public safety.

He says that is definitely happening in Victoria, which has been registering Chinese medical practitioners for 10 years.


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