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How Can We Make FDA Believe in Acupuncture and Approve It?

By Dr. Chung-Hwei Chernly 10/23/03

Billions of people have been treated by acupuncture for the past thousands of years. However, why is it so difficult for FDA of United States to approve and accept it? Since FDA won’t approve it, all the patients, but especially the senior citizens in this country will not benefit both physically and financially from this medicine. Simply because many health insurances and Medicare will not cover this type of treatment the patients are being penalized. Therefore, we urge FDA to take action to approve acupuncture.


There are some reasons for this present situation. The first reason is this wrong-headed statement, “There is no scientific evidence to show that acupuncture works.” This is an absurd reason, which is described in the other topic, "The Evidence of Acupuncture Effectiveness”. The FDA hasn't approved acupuncture, yet over 14,000 acupuncturists practice publicly and legally in over 47 states. It would appear to be a contradiction between what the people are demanding and what the government wants.


The second is an economically selfish reason.  Because acupuncture is so good at helping patients to recover from their different kinds of pain, many surgeries will be proved unnecessary if the patients use acupuncture instead. Therefore, the FDA will not endorse acupuncture because it will lose the backing of the AMA and pharmaceutical companies. Do not underestimate the power of money.


The third reason is that the theories behind the acupuncture are hard to understand. Even though the concept of qi and yin-yang are easy to understand, the concepts of “five elements”- metal, wood, water, fire and earth, which is the basis of acupuncture - cannot be approved correctly by scientific means. And frankly, it doesn't make sense. But look at the medical theory of the Greek physician Hippocrates (475 - 350 B.C.), called the Father of Medicine. His medical theory was based on four elements - earth, water, wind, and fire, also thought hardly to be scientific.


I personally agree with the third reason above. Actually, some parts of the theories are really hard to understand, and they have confused not only the American, but also the Chinese people. We need a new theory and the ability to describe it with a modern language. However, even though the theory has not been modernized and proven, we can not ignore and deny this medicine. No matter if it is right or wrong in its theory, it works clinically!


We don't need to know the theories before we eat food and take medicine that has been used for thousands of years. We only need to find it, to prepare it, and to use it. For example, the egg-fried rice has already been prepared. If you are hungry, just go ahead and eat it. You don’t need to go to the library to find out what the ingredients are and what the mechanisms are. Only recently we found out the mechanism and theory of the willow bark, one of the pain killer herbs, which has been used for thousands of years. Even though we now know its main ingredient is Acetylsalicylic Acid, what we call aspirin, we do not really, fully have an understanding of its theory and mechanism. It has only been in the past few years that its use for preventing heart attacks was discovered. However, the FDA has approved it because it works! The same reasoning is used for acupuncture. When you have pain, please go ahead and make an appointment to get pain relief, because acupuncture has been proven safe and effective for thousands of years. However, it might take another hundred years to uncover its theory and be able to describe it with modern language. Since acupuncture is safe, effective and the least invasive means to relieve pain, we, the American citizens, should request the FDA and medical authorities to accept and approve this treasured medicine because many patients cannot wait for another year.


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