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Illegal Import Compromises Registered Acupuncture

19 August 2002

*Illegal Import Compromises Registered Acupuncture Practitioners

The New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists is concerned about the importation of two herbal dietary supplements, Cheng Kum and Shen Loon, which have been found to contain steroidal pharmaceutical drugs. The NZRA deplores the inclusion of prescription medicines in any products promoted to consumers as herbal remedies. Distribution of products containing prescription medicines contravenes the Medicines Act 1981.

The Ministry of Health first advised against the use of Cheng Kum capsules in December 2000. A further alert was issued a year later in 2001 and consumers using the product were alerted to its dangers.

Register president Kevin Plaisted said “ Our members are deeply concerned that the actions of a single importer might compromise the work of the many skilled and professional practitioners who have been prescribing safe, effective Chinese herbs in New Zealand for decades. The importation and availability of these adulterated herbal products is very damaging to our profession. It does not reflect the high standards and training requirements within the industry.

Mr Plaisted emphasised that no Chinese herbal medicines used by members of the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists contain steroids.

“This was an isolated incident which demonstrates the effectiveness of existing controls on herbal remedies and dietary supplements. It does not constitute sufficient grounds for introducing the proposed regime to control the availability of complimentary medicines. The proposal, which would require every product on the market to be registered with a Trans Tasman agency.” Mr Plaisted said.

The NZRA opposes the inclusion of complementary medicines under the proposed Trans Tasman agency. It has called for further consideration to be given to the establishment of appropriate standards for the full range of complementary treatments before there is any change to existing controls.

“Unnecessarily complex and expensive controls, like those that are suggested, would severely restrict the availability of safe herbs and significantly increase their cost to consumers. A simpler system, such as one that provided for a "blacklist:" of unsafe products, could be sufficient to protect consumers.” Mr Plaisted suggested.

The New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists strongly recommends that consumers seek advice from properly trained and qualified practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine to ensure they receive appropriate treatment. Practitioners who are members of the Register use herbs from reputable sources that comply with international (GMP) quality control standards.


Media Background

1. In their recent submission on the proposed Trans Tasman Joint agency to regulate therapeutic products, the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists has:

- Called for the registration of trained and experienced practitioners so that it makes it difficult for inadequately trained people to operate in an unregulated environment.

- Called for the establishment of a more broadly-based advisory board so that the profession and the Ministry of Health (MOH) can liase on matters of importance to the practice of complementary medicine in New Zealand, including the registration of practitioners and controls on complementary healthcare products.

- Opposed the inclusion of complementary healthcare products in the scope of the proposed Trans Tasman Agency until further consideration is given to the development of an appropriate regulatory and scientific regime.

2. The NZRA, was founded in 1977, now has 228 members, 85% of whom use Chinese herbs in their practice.

Members of the NZRA have at least 4 years of training. They must undertake regular continuing education. Disciplinary procedures have been enforced by the NZRA for many years.


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