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Acupuncturists in Spain stand ready to fight for their rights

Acupuncturists in Spain stand ready to fight for their rights

By Olga Fedina (BAcC member, Spain)

Last autumn the Spanish coalition government, led by the Socialist PSOE Party, launched a concerted attack on natural therapies, including acupuncture. Since then there have been some developments.

Our hopes that this situation would make everyone involved in complimentary therapies forget their differences and unite in the face of common danger were fulfilled. In January, several important organisations, including the two biggest acupuncture professional bodies, the SAC (The Society of Acupuncturists of Catalonia) and the FEMTC (European Chinese Medicine Foundation), as well as other natural therapists’ associations, educational institutions and natural products suppliers, united to form the Natural Therapies Foundation (Fundación de Terapias Naturales - FTN). The aim of the Foundation is to defend the scientific evidence relating to the efficacy of the natural therapies.

In the meantime, the government made their first official list of 139 “pseudotherapies”. Of these, 73 have been officially declared “pseudotherapies”, while the other 66 are “possible pseudotherapies” that the government is undertaking to study to make their final verdict. Acupuncture, osteopathy, Taichi, Qigong, Shiatsu and homeopathy find themselves on this second list.

As expected, some medical acupuncturists spoke up in defence of acupuncture, saying it was not a pseudotherapy … but only when performed by doctors.

A budget crisis and subsequent general election diverted attention from “pseudotherapies” to other matters. On 28 April 2019 the same PSOE party won the most seats at the election, although without achieving the majority necessary to govern on their own. At the time of writing, they are still conducting negotiations with other parties in an attempt to form a government.

Meanwhile, the newly created FTN has used the access to politicians during the elections campaign to ask questions and lobby on behalf of the natural therapies. In March, it also started legal action against the infamous APEPT (The Association for Protection of the Sick Against Pseudoscientific Therapies) for slander, insults, offences against consumers, coercion and false complaints. Formal proceedings have also been initiated against the two ministers at the forefront of the attack on the CAM, Pedro Duque and Maria Luisa Carcedo, for spending more than a million euros of public money “inciting violence” against CAM professionals. A libel action has additionally been instigated against Duque.

The government’s line on acupuncture seems to be in discord with the needs and opinions of the population. More and more people in Spain use acupuncture, and the level of satisfaction is very high. There is data that demand for acupuncture is increasing. According to the ministry of health survey for the year 2017, altogether 1,826,200 people in Spain use CAM, including 476,100 who use acupuncture (80,000 more than in 2012). In the 2016 survey performed by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, 59.8% of respondents expressed a high level of confidence that acupuncture worked.  

As for the scientific research behind the acupuncture practice, all of us BAcC members know there is plenty of good quality research. To deny this is ignorance at best, and malice at worst. Interestingly, my Spanish friends and those who argue on behalf of the natural therapies on the Internet make connections between the anti-CAM policies and dictatorship, inquisition and witch hunt. In people’s memory in Spain the dictatorship is still fresh, and an attempt to reduce people’s freedom of choice as for which therapy to go brings to mind the oppressive Franco regime and abuses of power by the Catholic Church.

We are hoping that international concern and surprise at the heavy-handed and ill-informed approach towards CAM on the part of the Spanish government can embarrass and educate it so that it adopts a more enlightened approach.

As natural therapists in Spain, including acupuncturists, we are ready to fight for our rights to practice, and for consumers’ freedom of choice.


By Olga Fedina (BAcC member, Spain)
Last autumn the Spanish coalition government, led by the Socialist PSOE Party, launched a concerted attack on natural therapies, including acupuncture. Since then there have been some developments.
Our hopes that this situation would make everyone involved in complimentary therapies forget their differences and unite in the face of common danger were fulfilled. In January, several important organisations, including the two biggest acupuncture professional bodies, the SAC (The Society of Acupuncturists of Catalonia) and the FEMTC (European Chinese Medicine Foundation), as well as other natural therapists’ associations, educational institutions and natural products suppliers, united to form the Natural Therapies Foundation (Fundación de Terapias Naturales - FTN). The aim of the Foundation is to defend the scientific evidence relating to the efficacy of the natural therapies.
In the meantime, the government made their first official list of 139 “pseudotherapies”. Of these, 73 have been officially declared “pseudotherapies”, while the other 66 are “possible pseudotherapies” that the government is undertaking to study to make their final verdict. Acupuncture, osteopathy, Taichi, Qigong, Shiatsu and homeopathy find themselves on this second list.
As expected, some medical acupuncturists spoke up in defence of acupuncture, saying it was not a pseudotherapy … but only when performed by doctors.
A budget crisis and subsequent general election diverted attention from “pseudotherapies” to other matters. On 28 April 2019 the same PSOE party won the most seats at the election, although without achieving the majority necessary to govern on their own. At the time of writing, they are still conducting negotiations with other parties in an attempt to form a government.
Meanwhile, the newly created FTN has used the access to politicians during the elections campaign to ask questions and lobby on behalf of the natural therapies. In March, it also started legal action against the infamous APEPT (The Association for Protection of the Sick Against Pseudoscientific Therapies) for slander, insults, offences against consumers, coercion and false complaints. Formal proceedings have also been initiated against the two ministers at the forefront of the attack on the CAM, Pedro Duque and Maria Luisa Carcedo, for spending more than a million euros of public money “inciting violence” against CAM professionals. A libel action has additionally been instigated against Duque.
The government’s line on acupuncture seems to be in discord with the needs and opinions of the population. More and more people in Spain use acupuncture, and the level of satisfaction is very high. There is data that demand for acupuncture is increasing. According to the ministry of health survey for the year 2017, altogether 1,826,200 people in Spain use CAM, including 476,100 who use acupuncture (80,000 more than in 2012). In the 2016 survey performed by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, 59.8% of respondents expressed a high level of confidence that acupuncture worked.
As for the scientific research behind the acupuncture practice, all of us BAcC members know there is plenty of good quality research. To deny this is ignorance at best, and malice at worst. Interestingly, my Spanish friends and those who argue on behalf of the natural therapies on the Internet make connections between the anti-CAM policies and dictatorship, inquisition and witch hunt. In people’s memory in Spain the dictatorship is still fresh, and an attempt to reduce people’s freedom of choice as for which therapy to go brings to mind the oppressive Franco regime and abuses of power by the Catholic Church.
We are hoping that international concern and surprise at the heavy-handed and ill-informed approach towards CAM on the part of the Spanish government can embarrass and educate it so that it adopts a more enlightened approach.
As natural therapists in Spain, including acupuncturists, we are ready to fight for our rights to practice, and for consumers’ freedom of choice.

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