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Disease Protection

Little Hover Commission 2004

Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

The board also has not forcefully responded to emerging information about basic public safety concerns. The Council of Acupuncture and Oriental Medical Associations, in arguing for improved education standards, submitted to the Commission an audit by a managed care company which found that "18 percent of acupuncturists did not have the required sanitary hand washing facilities and 15 percent did not comply with safe needle disposal requirements."119

These issues could readily be addressed through practitioner education and standard audits of clinics and practitioner offices. Appropriate hand-washing and proper disposal of needles that could contain diseases are fundamental public health matters.120 Given life-threatening contagious diseases such as human immune deficiency disease and hepatitis, professional oversight bodies must be diligent in advancing basic public health measures of infection control. Similarly, the board has not adopted in its regulations federal recommendations for exclusive use of sterile, single-use needles. NIH recommended this protective measure in 1997 and the FDA requires manufacturers to label acupuncture needles for single-use only. However, as of fall 2004, the board had not adopted this standard.121

The board did not respond to written requests to explain its position on the NIH recommendations.122 However, the executive director stated that the board has been overwhelmed by other issues and the recommendation has not been a major focus of board attention.123

With the evolution of stronger diseases that are resistant to antibiotics, it has become increasingly difficult to sterilize all health care equipment, leading to a general shift in the rest of the health care system to disposable instruments.

Finally, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology reported in 2002 that difficult-to-diagnose infections are occurring among acupuncture patients due to newly emerging, relatively alcohol-resistant, mycobacteria.124 These and other blood-borne pathogens can be avoided through strict prevention measures, such as stronger disinfectants to clean the sites where needles will be inserted.125 However, inexplicably, these research-based prevention measures have not been implemented, nor agendized for public discussion by the board.



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