Did Alan Bensoussan suck-up to the communists in China regarding TCM? It depends a little bit on google translate.

Google translate is a wonderful tool but it can sometimes be so funny – I guess it still needs a bit of work. I’ve googled ‘Alan Bensoussan’ due to the recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald exposing the National Institute of Complementary Medicine’s (NICM) dealings with communists and smugglers. In the article, reference is made to a speech given by Alan Bensoussan sucking up to some communists in China. Let me quote the article: “According to a leaked draft of his speech notes, Bensoussan planned to say Chinese medicine was “exceptional” because of the “conscientious, vigorous support of the Chinese government”. NICM would not confirm if Bensoussan made the speech. “China remains on a strong trajectory to develop [traditional Chinese medicine] internationally … It is now up to China to help us with this task … We look forward to ongoing collaboration with our Chinese partners [and] the continued support of the Chinese government,” the draft speech continued.”

So the question is; did Alan Bensoussan give the speech or not. The NICM will obviously say nothing and they deny having received any funding from China for the advancement of TCM in Australia (which I don’t belief). But according to a recent Chinese article, obviously written in Chinese, he did indeed give the speech. But this depends a little bit on google translate and if Bensoussan = Benshanshan = Ben Shusan (Ben Shoeshine would have been great). I’ve copied the translated text below followed by the original Chinese text (I’ll appreciate it if a native speaker can give me some pointers). I’ve also highlighted some funny parts.

“Australian and Chinese medicine researcher Bensoussan: China leads the world with acceleration

China News Service reporter Tao Shelan

“I have been studying Chinese medicine for the first time in Nanjing since 1984. For decades, I have witnessed the great changes in China. It is leading the world with the development of acceleration. I often think: Maybe the Chinese themselves will also be affected by this speed. The result is that they are very adaptable. If this continues, China will have a better future. Westerners need to recognize China’s achievements.” Australian Chinese Medicine Research Scholar, Dean of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), University of Western Sydney Alan Bensoussan told the China News Agency reporter.

In an ancient building built in 1915, 25 kilometers west of Sydney, NIMC led by Benshanshan and its predecessor, the University of Western Sydney’s Center for Auxiliary Medicine, have been conducting “from laboratory to clinical” for Chinese medicine since 1995. The comprehensive research program is a leader in Australian Chinese medicine research, education and policy development. It is his greatest wish to let Chinese medicine, a medical culture, be shared by the world.

In fact, Ben Shushan himself is an acupuncturist with 25 years of experience. From an early age, he was interested in medicine, especially non-traditional medicine. Through the media, he learned about the magic of acupuncture, so he enrolled in a three-year acupuncture course and took acupuncture license. After training in Nanjing, he opened a clinic. Some cases that are not complicated but have not been cured for a long time, through his acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the patient miraculously recovered. This brought him business and made him “fascinated by Chinese medicine practitioners” until now.

The example of slaughtering shows that Chinese medicine is very valuable.” [I wonder, does this now refer to the slaughter of pangolins and rhinos?] Ben Shushan said that in recent decades, China has made outstanding achievements in the protection of traditional medicine and established many excellent Chinese medicine hospitals, schools and research institutions.

While attending the clinic, I completed a master’s degree from the University of Technology, Sydney, and a Ph.D. program at the University of Sydney. Compared with business, Benshanshan prefers to do academic research. In 1989, he was employed by the University of Western Sydney to engage in non-traditional medical research while teaching. In 1996, he was invited to take the lead in researching and evaluating the practice of Chinese medicine in Australia, and published the “Australian TCM Practice” assessment report, which laid the foundation for the standardization and legalization of Chinese medicine in Australia in the future.

In 2013, Benshanshan won the Chinese Medicine International Contribution Award from China. This award is the only international award in the field of Chinese medicine in the world. He became the only foreigner who won the medal in the same year. On the podium, Ben Shushan said: “China is the only country that has protected and developed its traditional medical system. Looking around the world, clinical and research facilities without any traditional medicine can compete with Chinese medicine.” [if this translation can be corrected, will this correspond with the leaked speech notes?]

In that year, NICM and the Xiyuan Hospital of China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences established a joint research and development center for Chinese medicine. In 2014, NICM signed a memorandum of cooperation with Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine to establish the first high-quality integrated Chinese and Western medicine research and clinical service center in Australia. The two sides exchange medical personnel for academic research or training. Ben Shushan said that cooperation with China is very important and necessary. What we have to do is to successfully apply Chinese medicine to Western countries. There will be unlimited opportunities for future Chinese medicine practitioners.

What makes Ben Shushan feel shocked is the speed at which China has developed rapidly in recent decades. When I first went to China in the same year, on the streets of Nanjing, when he asked for directions, there were many people who looked around. There were very few foreigners in China at that time. He went to Shijiazhuang, and the street signs on the street didn’t have pinyin, so he lost his way. Twelve years later, he revisited China with a visiting delegation of the World Health Organization. His great changes made him speechless. Now, he has to go to China several times a year.

Ben Shushan said: “China has its own culture different from Western culture. Just like the Chinese tunic suit, it is a unique charm. Now go to China’s shopping malls, McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc. But the Chinese are warm and friendly. Innovation has never changed. Chinese culture is extremely rich and diverse. China’s traditional medicine also has diversity, which is worth exploring and learning, and thus benefiting all mankind.” Ben Shushan looks forward to cooperating with Chinese medicine in China. “We have infrastructure, resources, and enthusiasm.”

Original text

原标题:(新中国70年)人物志:澳大利亚中医药研究学者本树山:中国以加速度发展引领世界

中新社悉尼8月5日电 题:澳大利亚中医药研究学者本树山:中国以加速度发展引领世界

中新社记者 陶社兰

“自1984年第一次去南京学习中医,几十年来,我亲眼见证了中国的巨大变革。它是在以加速度的发展引领世界。我常常想:也许中国人自己也会受到这种速度的冲击吧。结果是,他们非常适应。照这样下去,中国会有更好的未来。西方人需要认可中国的成就。”澳大利亚中医药研究学者、西悉尼大学国家辅助医学研究院(NICM)院长艾伦·本树山(Alan Bensoussan)告诉中新社记者。

在悉尼以西25公里外一栋建于1915年的古老建筑里,本树山领导的NICM及其前身西悉尼大学辅助医学研究中心自1995年以来,针对中医药展开了“从实验室到临床”的综合研究计划,在澳大利亚中医药研究、教育及政策制定方面居于领导地位。让中医这种医学文化为世界所共享,是他最大的愿望。

事实上,本树山自己,就是一名有着25年从业经验的针灸师。从小就对医学尤其是非传统医学充满兴趣的他,通过媒体了解到针灸的神奇,于是报读了一个为期3年的针灸课程,考下了针灸师执照。在南京进修后,他开了诊所。一些并不复杂却久治不好的病例,通过他的针灸和中药,病人奇迹般康复。这给他带来了生意,也让他直到现在还“为中医着迷”。

“屠呦呦的例子,充分说明中医药是非常有价值的。”本树山说,近几十年来,中国在保护传统医学方面成果突出,建立了许多优秀的中医医院、学校及研究机构。

一边开诊所,一边读完了悉尼科技大学的硕士、悉尼大学的博士课程。和生意相比,本树山更喜欢做学术研究。1989年,他受聘于西悉尼大学,在教学的同时,从事非传统医学研究。1996年,他应邀牵头调研和评估中医在澳大利亚的实践,并出版了《澳大利亚中医实践》评估报告,为以后中医在澳大利亚的规范化和合法化奠定了基础。

2013年,本树山获得中国颁发的中医药国际贡献奖。这个奖项是世界范围内中医药领域唯一的国际奖项,他成为当年获得此项奖章的唯一外国人。颁奖台上,本树山说:“中国是唯一将本国传统医学体系保护并发展完好的国家。环顾世界,没有任何传统医学的临床及研究设施可以与中医媲美。”

也就在那一年,NICM与中国中医科学院西苑医院建立了中医药联合研发中心。2014年,NICM与北京中医药大学签署合作备忘录,共同在澳大利亚建立首个高质量中西药结合研究和临床服务中心,双方互派医务人员进行学术研究或培训。本树山表示,与中国进行合作是非常重要且必要的,我们所要做的就是将中医成功运用于西方国家。未来中医将有无限机会。

同样让本树山感到震撼的,是中国近几十年来飞快发展的速度。遥想当年第一次去中国时,在南京街头,他一问路,就有很多人围上来看稀奇。那时候在中国的外国人很少。他去石家庄,街道上的路牌没有拼音,以至于迷路了。12年后,他随世界卫生组织的一个访问团再访中国,变化之大令他无以言表。现在,他每年都要去中国几次。

本树山说:“中国自有它不同于西方的文化,就像中山装一样,是独特的魅力。现在去中国的购物中心,麦当劳、星巴克等等什么都有。但是,中国人的热情、友好、创新,始终没变。中国文化极其丰富,有多样性。中国的传统医学也有多样性,值得探索、学习,从而造福于全人类。”本树山期待与中国的中医药合作也可以出现加速度,“我们有基础设施、有资源、也有热情。”(完)

 

Communists, smugglers, and millions of dollars: inside the taxpayer-funded NICM institute spreading Chinese medicine in Australia

A couple of days ago a very interesting article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) regarding the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM). The article was the result of an in-depth investigation of the award winning science reporter for the SMH and The Age, Liam Mannix. (I also borrowed, with permission, the title of this blog post from one of @liammannix tweets because it perfectly captures the essence of the NICM in one sentence).

The SMH article is in general not very flattering of the NICM’s operations but unfortunately, and maybe I can say as usual, the university hosting the NICM, Western Sydney University, denies any wrongdoing and will in all likelihood continue with ‘business’ as usual.  There is however one paragraph in the article that seriously annoys me and it again shows how good these people are at misleading the public. It is the very common example of Artemisinin being used as ‘evidence’ that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a real thing as opposed to state sponsored quackery. I’ve copied the article below and will comment on the artemisinin statement afterwards.

Start of article

The National Institute of Complementary Medicine was in trouble. Set up in 2007 with federal government money, its job was to research the scientific validity of complementary medicines such as acupuncture.

But by 2015 it was struggling to bring in research funding.

Confidential board documents, obtained by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, show its parent organisation, Western Sydney University, had become “concerned about their relatively high level of financial support for NICM”. At a cost of about $2 million per year, the institute was a drain on the university’s coffers.

The National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University.
The National Institute of Complementary Medicine at Western Sydney University.CREDIT:JANIE BARRETT

So the institute decided to change focus and reach across the seas for funds. Under director Professor Alan Bensoussan, the NICM, and through it the university, began to concentrate on the controversial practices of traditional Chinese medicine.

What happened next shows the extensive, unreported links between an Australian university and the Chinese government – links that had potential to indirectly assist the aims of the Chinese Communist Party.

In response to its funding shortfall, the NICM lined up millions of dollars from a property developer called Yuhu group, chaired by Huang Xiangmo, a man with well-reported connections to organisations associated to the Communist Party. Huang was a big political donor to both sides of politics, a Crown casino high roller and the man whose relationship with Sam Dastyari resulted in the Labor senator quitting politics in disgrace.

Then the NICM secured a pledge of $20 million from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. The money was originally lined up for a hospital of Chinese medicine in Westmead, Sydney. Bensoussan prepared to announce the funding as a coup as, according to a 2015 strategic review, “the Chinese government looks for Western validation and greater use/patient benefits from [Chinese medicine]”.

“This is universally regarded as the most critical short term source of additional research funding for NICM,” the review continued, and NICM and Australia were “ideally positioned to leverage its strengths in [Chinese medicine]”.

A separate document, also obtained by The Age and Herald, urged the NICM to “seek endorsement and influence from the Chinese government”, and named Chinese President Xi Jinping as a key person to engage. The strategy was entitled “Building a Bridge Between China and Australia”.

The centre now denies that any of the funding, either from Huang or the Beijing University, actually came through. This year, Western Sydney University cut the ribbon on a new health centre in Westmead, offering services including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. They say it has been fully funded by the university.

What is not questioned is the desire of the Chinese Communist Party leadership to sell the benefits of its medical practices to the West as part of its national propaganda effort.

Recent moves by the federal government to impose greater responsibility on universities to take note of their exposure to foreign influence activities, particularly from China, make the NICM’s overtures to China in retrospect look naive at best. However in the context of the time, it’s unlikely that NICM or Bensoussan recognised that they were at risk of being part of a Chinese influence strategy.

To its supporters, the National Institute is testing traditional medicines with scientific thoroughness to enhance the treatments available for chronic diseases in the West. To its detractors, it’s pushing questionable medical practices with inadequate proof and playing its part in a concerted attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to improve its image in the West.

‘Unethical not to do it’

Traditional Chinese medicine prescribes cocktails of herbs, animal extracts and acupuncture to balance the energy – qi – that runs through invisible channels in the body called meridians.

Bensoussan, the NICM’s director, is a longtime practitioner. He says Chinese medicine’s herbs might hold secrets to treating the West’s chronic disease problems. “We would be unethical to not do this research, to turn our backs on it,” he said.

Part of a Chinese traditional herbal medicine book.
Part of a Chinese traditional herbal medicine book.CREDIT:ISTOCK

This is not a wild claim. The anti-malarial herbal extract artemisinin emerged from a broad survey of traditional Chinese medicine and has saved millions of lives. In Australia, Chinese medicine practitioners are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, and Bensoussan is on the Natural Therapies Review Team at the National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia’s peak funding body for medical research. In May this year, the World Health Organisation agreed to include traditional remedies in its foundational document – a strong endorsement.

But it also has its detractors.

Venerable academic journal Nature responded to the WHO’s decision with an unusually stinging editorial: “[Traditional Chinese medicine] is based on unsubstantiated theories about meridians and Qi. Most Western-trained doctors and medical researchers regard TCM practices with scepticism: there is no substantial evidence that most of them work, and some signs that a few do harm.”

The NICM’s reason for being is to test the science behind complementary medicine.

The World Health Organisation agreed to include traditional remedies in its foundational document in May.
The World Health Organisation agreed to include traditional remedies in its foundational document in May.CREDIT:ISTOCK

But questions have been raised about industry funding of its research, and what that might mean for its rigour. In 2015 NICM launched a clinical trial of Sailuotong, a herbal mixture for vascular dementia, funded by a Chinese-linked pharmaceutical company called Australia Shineway Technology Pty Ltd. And The Beijing Tong Ren Tang Chinese Medicine Corporation is funding NICM research into the health benefits of cow gallstones. Both companies already sell the medicines under study.

This sort of research – where a private company pays a university to confirm that a substance it is already selling actually works as medicine – has the potential to create “a very significant conflict of interest that is usually intolerable in science”, says John Dwyer, a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of NSW.

NICM responded that the institute “conducts itself with the highest degree of integrity, ethics, scientific enquiry and social responsibility. The University has strict protocols in place to ensure the independence of its research.”

‘An unprecedented opportunity’

In 2014, Western Sydney University signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine to work together on a jointly-run Chinese medicine clinic in the heart of Sydney, to be known as the Australia China Academy for Integrative Healthcare. At the signing were then prime minister Tony Abbott and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover and Xu Anlong, president of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, sign the memorandum of understanding witnessed by Xi Jinping and Tony Abbott in Canberra in 2014.
Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Barney Glover and Xu Anlong, president of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, sign the memorandum of understanding witnessed by Xi Jinping and Tony Abbott in Canberra in 2014.CREDIT:UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN SYDNEY NEWS CENTRE

Background briefing notes from NICM’s top leadership called the centre “an unprecedented opportunity for the advancement of Chinese medicine in Australia, including the development of the Chinese medicine market in the West; promoting Chinese heritage and culture; and integrating Chinese medicine with the Australian healthcare system.”

Leaked emails show NICM’s leadership ensured that, as a potential donor to the institute, Huang Xiangmo was sent a copy of the MOU briefing notes before the signing. The Beijing University proposed spending more than $20 million on the collaboration. The clinic was to “introduce Chinese medicine to Australian clinicians and the community”, according to a leaked staff briefing. It would have included a museum of Chinese medicine.

Western Sydney University now says that the funding never arrived, and insists it has received no money from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. The new Chinese medicine centre in Westmead is “wholly operated and financed by Western Sydney University”, a spokeswoman said.

The University has denied that NICM had funding issues in 2015, and Bensoussan also denied that NICM’s embrace of Chinese medicine had anything to do with money: “That is completely wrong. It is really hard to get money out of China. China has very strict rules around these sorts of things.”

But the documents suggest it was not for want of trying.

In 2012, NICM signed a cooperation agreement on Traditional Chinese medicine with the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, China’s top traditional medicine organisation – which is run by the Chinese government.

The following year, Bensoussan found himself at the Great Hall of the People, on the edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, receiving the International Award for Contribution to Chinese Medicine. According to a leaked draft of his speech notes, Bensoussan planned to say Chinese medicine was “exceptional” because of the “conscientious, vigorous support of the Chinese government”. NICM would not confirm if Bensoussan made the speech.

Professor Alan Bensoussan receives the International Award for Contribution to Chinese Medicine at Beijing's Great Hall of the People in 2013, flanked by Chinese Vice-Minister of Health Wang Guoqiang (left).
Professor Alan Bensoussan receives the International Award for Contribution to Chinese Medicine at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People in 2013, flanked by Chinese Vice-Minister of Health Wang Guoqiang (left). CREDIT:UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN SYDNEY NEWS CENTRE

“China remains on a strong trajectory to develop [traditional Chinese medicine] internationally … It is now up to China to help us with this task … We look forward to ongoing collaboration with our Chinese partners [and] the continued support of the Chinese government,” the draft speech continued.

‘Promoting the Communist Party’

Leaked documents reveal that the same year, Western Sydney University was in talks about a major new project with Huang’s Yuhu Group, researching Chinese herbs for cancer medicine. Yuhu indicated it would be willing to invest up to $12 million – a huge sum for an institute that was earning a little over a million dollars in annual revenue. But Yuhu did not have any experience or other interests in medical research – it was a property development company.

Confidential strategy documents show NICM targeted Huang as a potential donor to be “cultivated”. He was later to become leader of the Council for the Peaceful Promotion of the Reunification of China, the peak Chinese Communist Party lobbying and influence organisation in Australia – another organisation identified by NICM to target for influence and funding.

Earlier this year, Huang was banned from Australia over ASIO’s fears he was peddling influence for Beijing – a claim he denies.

A spokeswoman for the university said NICM never received any funding from the Yuhu group. “The draft proposal was never advanced,” she said.

However, that was not the end of the university’s dalliance with Huang. In 2015 he donated $3.5 million to establish a new Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture. At the time, the gift was the single-largest donation ever received by the university. NICM director Bensoussan is listed as one of the Australia-China Institute’s key researchers.

The promotion of traditional Chinese medicine fits with Beijing’s broader use of “soft power” to build its influence in the West, says Alex Joske, a Beijing-watcher based at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. In 2016, Beijing released a white paper saying “the Chinese government is dedicated to promoting the development of traditional medicine throughout the world”.

The country has been rolling back medical safeguards for the herbs; Chinese doctors who question the science face arrest. And new laws in China require hospitals to open TCM departments.

“One of the important things to understand is for Beijing there is no real clear line between politics, culture, education and propaganda,” Joske says. “For Beijing, promoting traditional medicine isn’t just about pushing alternative scientific approaches and medical techniques. It’s also about promoting the Chinese Communist Party.”

Sharing recipes

In 2013 Western Sydney University signed a non-disclosure agreement that mentioned sharing herbal recipes with a man named Yu Long Yu.

The Age and the Herald twice asked NICM if this was the same Chinese medicine practitioner called Yu Long Yu who faced court in 2006 for importing material from endangered species in Australia – including tiger, rhinoceros and musk deer material, and more than 200 kilograms of pangolin (anteater) scales.

The Institute refused to answer the question.

Critics contend poaching of endangered animals is often fuelled by demands for the ingredients for use in certain Chinese medicines. Pangolins, for example, are being pushed into extinction.

A pangolin carries its baby in a Bali zoo. Pangolin scales are in high demand for use in traditional Chinese medicine.
A pangolin carries its baby in a Bali zoo. Pangolin scales are in high demand for use in traditional Chinese medicine. CREDIT:AP

Bensoussan has long history with Yu. In 2006, when he was director of the Centre for Complementary Medicine Research, NICM’s predecessor, Bensoussan appeared at Yu’s trial as a character witness. Bensoussan was described at the time as Yu’s friend and sometime business associate, and described his friend as “absolutely exceptional”, saying “there are very few clinicians of his ilk in Australia”.

The judge disagreed. Yu “was propagating the decimation of protected species”, he said.

It was Bensoussan who would sign NICM’s 2013 agreement with Yu.

Another apparent money-making effort was named Project Rozella. The plan, conceived of around 2014, was for NICM to develop a label – much like the Heart Foundation Tick – that companies could place on herbal medicines that would mean the NICM had endorsed their safety and effectiveness.

“This could be a significant source of revenue for NICM,” internal documents say. “Risks could be minimised by a simple evaluation of the data held, rather than a detailed qualitative assessment of the trial itself.”

A NICM spokeswoman said Project Rozella was a “defunct proposal for a point-of-sale health-labelling system”. She denied any suggestion that it was designed to gloss over the existing lack of proven medical evidence that the NICM was set up to test.

But according to Ken Harvey, president of Friends of Science in Medicine, NICM appeared to be trying to find a way to give a tick of approval to herbs without thoroughly checking the evidence.

“The problem with looking at these trials is they generally don’t stand up. You’re better off bullshitting and hoping that no one is going to pull you up,” he said.

End of article

The below statement is one that I come across quite regularly when people such as Alan Bensoussan tries to vindicate their promotion of TCM. Unfortunately it seems that this statement is quite convincing but in reality it is actually a very irresponsible statement to make.

“The anti-malarial herbal extract artemisinin emerged from a broad survey of traditional Chinese medicine and has saved millions of lives.”

So why is this statement so wrong? There is a number of issues, some of which I will list below:

  1. Artemisinin is not an herb or an herbal extract, it is a compound (a sesquiterpene lactone endoperoxide to be more exact).
  2. Why would the Chinese government embark on a large scale project to find effective antimalarials if they have this wonderful and highly effective TCM? Why bother? Because they know TCM is BS, but they also know that modern science can indeed yield valuable compounds for the treatment of disease.
  3. TCM is however a massive market (people are quite gullible), and hence the Chinese government decided to promote all of TCM internationally – nothing to do with healthcare, everything to do with business. Alan Bensoussan and the NICM are just too happy to be the conduit for the CCP’s plans regarding TCM in Australia.
  4. Chinese scientists isolated artemisinin in the 1960/70’s, derivatised it into artemether and artesunate and it is currently being used as a first-line treatment against malaria in combination with other antimalarial compounds. It is called ‘artemisinin combination therapies’.
  5. It is not TCM that saved millions of lives, modern science did. The Chinese scientists involved in this research was rightfully awarded the Nobel prize for their efforts.
  6. It is very rare to find compounds such as artemisinin – I would say the chances are 1 in a 100 herbs tested, but in reality it is much closer to 1 in a 1000 herbs tested. The Chinese scientists had to test many many hundreds of herbs to find this one compound. (I’ve been trying for 20 years to find compounds such as artemisinin – I haven’t yet found anything remotely as good as artemisinin).
  7. Alan Bensoussan and the like abuse science by making use of A. annua (herb) and artemisinin (compound) as evidence that TCM is effective. He has done so before. The Australian Skeptics published an article in 2017 rebuking Alan Bensoussan’s use of this example to promote TCM.
  8. The WHO explicitly warns against the use of A. annua or artemisinin mainly because resistance against these compounds can and probably will eventually occur. Therefore the irresponsible promotion and use of the herb, A. annua can in effect lead to millions of people dying.  (The WHO advocate the use of combination therapies to slow the development of resistance). Unfortunately there are already signs that resistance has developed against this class of compounds in Asia.
  9. The WHO quite recently again published a position statement and explicitly warned against the use of ‘non-pharmaceutical forms of Artemisia’ (the herb) and yet Alan Bensoussan will dig in his heals and continue to insinuate that TCM is effective using the example of A. annua.
  10. Is A. annua really the only example that they have? Anything else? ‘rhino horn’ maybe?

There is a lot more that can be said but I’ll leave it at that – they will continue to use the A. annua/artemisinin example to mislead the public into thinking that TCM herbs are effective, ignoring the explicit warning of the WHO not to do so. Where is the ethics in that? But now back to the question; is this  article in the SMH the beginning of the end of the NICM? Short answer is, no. The reason for this is that Universities are mainly self regulating, which implies that one person makes the decisions about what science is and what it is not (a decision that seems to be mainly driven by money). In this case it is the vice-chancellor Barney Glover. Now if this man cannot be moved even when members of the public gets hurt (and unfortunately die) because of the promotion of ineffective remedies peddled by the NICM, then this article in the SMH will not really have much of an impact. If anything this is free marketing for the NICM and this is just the sad, unfortunate reality.

Slapping therapist found guilty of manslaughter over six-year-old’s death

Finally! At long last the Australian courts came to a verdict and found the notorious slapping therapist guilty of manslaughter. Early last week another warrant for his arrest was issued in the UK where another person died at his hands. Now the main question is; what type of sentence will he receive? Keep in mind that the parents of the victim were cleared of any wrongdoing – which in my view is…. yeah, what can one say – unbelievable.  So, will it this time be a just sentence, one that sends a strong message to the growing army of quacks out there, or will it only be a weak slap on the wrist? Hopefully by coming Friday we will know. At least it is a step in the right direction, and now the authorities should seriously start to look at where all this misleading information is coming from, especially those publicly funded universities that continue to promote these ineffective dangerous rubbish – but I’m not holding my breath.

Here is the full article regarding this important verdict as it appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and copied below.

Start of article:

“A Chinese medicine practitioner who claimed slapping and stretching could cure diabetes has been found guilty of manslaughter after a six-year-old boy died following a “slapping healing” workshop four years ago.

The boy, who cannot be named, had type 1 diabetes and was given his final insulin injection on April 22, 2015, at the beginning of a week-long workshop at Hurstville in Sydney’s south. He died five days later, after he began to vomit a black-coloured substance and became so weak he was pushed around in a pram. On the day of his death, when he could not talk or open his eyes, participants at the workshop slapped his arms to wake him up.

The boy was also slapped on the arms that evening, after he had a seizure and laid on a hotel bed unconscious and not breathing. He died from diabetic ketoacidosis, a build-up of acid in the body after no insulin is administered.

Hong Chi Xiao, 56, was charged with manslaughter over the boy’s death, with the Crown arguing Xiao owed the boy a duty of care which he breached through gross negligence. On Friday, a jury found him guilty following a trial in the NSW District Court.

Xiao initially faced trial last year, but those proceedings were aborted after he sacked his legal team. The boy’s mother, father and maternal grandmother were also accused of manslaughter in a trial last year; all three were found not guilty.

Xiao’s first trial heard he taught “paida lajin” workshops, a type of slapping and stretching, as a form of Chinese alternative medicine.

The court was told he claimed in a seminar the day before the Sydney workshop that the paida lajin method “unlocked the body’s self-healing power”, which could cure diseases including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

“He told the audience that in respect of insulin, it could be generated by slapping and stretching,” Crown prosecutor Sharon Harris said last year. “There was no alternative to insulin. It was insulin keeping [the boy] alive.”

The boy’s parents enrolled him in Xiao’s workshop with the hope of “curing” his diabetes, because he was tired of being injected with insulin four times a day. As part of the workshop he was made to fast for three days, before he was finally allowed to eat again on the day he died. The first trial heard Xiao told the boy’s mother that she should not give him any more insulin, because “medicine is poison, Western medicine cannot cure you”.

As the boy’s health deteriorated and he started vomiting, Xiao told the boy’s mother that toxins were being released from his body and it was a positive sign, not a negative one, the court was told.

Xiao denied making such comments. He will return to court on Friday for a sentencing date to be set.

Earlier this month a court in England issued a warrant for Xiao’s arrest over the alleged gross negligence manslaughter of a woman who attended one of his workshops in 2016. The woman’s son told British media the 71-year-old also had diabetes and attended a week-long workshop in England’s south-west in an attempt to “cure” the condition.

British police said they will “work with the relevant agencies” to have Xiao stand trial over the woman’s death.”

End of article

I am no lawyer so I don’t have a clue about what to expect when it comes to sentencing. According to this website the average aggregate sentence for manslaughter was seven years, with an average minimum of 4.5 years. This info is a bit dated (from 2012) but I am hopeful that they will set an example and sentence him to the absolute maximum allowable under law.

Sydney medical practice sued over ‘Slapping Therapy’ death of diabetic boy – the first crack in this unholy alliance?

I have some great news, I’m not the guy in the photo! But seriously, who would do stuff like this? About a year ago I’ve written about the tragic death of a young boy at the hands of a ‘slapping therapy’ quack. This particular quack claimed (and still do) that by slapping yourself, or by being slapped by someone else, you will unblock your chi (life force, energy, whatever) that flows through meridians – this is the central tenet of what is collectively known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). So, by slapping yourself you will be cured of whatever medical problem you might have. It is truly bizarre to think that there are actually people that fall for this trickery, and even more bizarre to think that some people are so into it, that they will subject a sick helpless child to this strange form of fatal abuse.

So, the good news is that the slapping therapist, Hongchi Xiao, has been arrested and as far as I can tell, has been in and out of court over the last year or so – I truly hope that he will get a very long jail sentence. Now, something that I’ve been calling for is that the medical practice, which at the time was known as Tasly Healthpac, the university (Western Sydney University) and specifically the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM), and to some degree the regulator (Therapeutic Goods Administration) should also be facing court – they are all involved in this, and unfortunately in many other similar practices (and to think that Dr Kerryn Phelps who is currently running as an independent in the all important Wentworth by-election is intricately involved with the NICM and their modus operandi – but more about this in a next article).

So, the even better news is that the parents of the victim have recently sued Tasly Healthpac and its director Dr Ven Tan.  It is not yet excellent news, because the NICM and the regulators are still getting away with it, but hopefully their day in court will come sooner rather than later.

I’ve copied the article published in the Sydney Morning Herald below. It is a very interesting article because is saying quite a lot. Thou should not hate, but oh boy, it is sometimes quite difficult not to develop a heartfelt hatred towards quacks and quackery. I’ll comment on just one aspect below the article.

Start of article

A Sydney couple is suing a medical practice over the death of their six-year-old son, who attended a “self-healing” course in its rooms and later died from insulin deprivation. But the practice claims the couple were already acolytes of the therapy, helped organise the course and were themselves to blame for the boy’s death.

Aidan Fenton, a Year 1 student from Prospect in Sydney’s west, fell unconscious in the Ritz Hotel, Hurstville, about 9pm on a Monday in April 2015 and could not be revived. Over the previous week, Aidan had participated in a treatment called Paidalajin, promoted and overseen by Chinese national Hongchi Xiao. The so-called therapy involves individuals stretching, fasting and slapping their skin to the point of bruising in order to “unblock meridians” in the body.

The five-day workshop was advertised by the Tasly Healthpac medical centre in Hurstville, which collected fees of $1800 from participants and provided Mr Xiao with rooms. Aidan’s father Jeff, mother Lily Pan and grandmother Guo Ying Yin have launched legal action against Mr Xiao, as well as the medical centre and its director, former Australian GP of the Year Chin Ven Tan.

According to a claim filed by the Fenton family to the NSW Supreme Court, Aidan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a year before he died. His mother registered him for Mr Xiao’s Paidalajin course, where she was allegedly told to cease his insulin doses as the therapy would cure his diabetes instead. Three days later, Aidan’s father was said to have questioned Mr Xiao and told that a deterioration in his son’s health “was an expected part of the Paidalajin treatment process.”

Aidan’s health deteriorated further. His family claims Mr Xiao said it was not necessary to take him to hospital and instead offered to care for the boy overnight at the Ritz Hotel, near the treatment centre. His grandmother remained with him as his condition worsened and he lost consciousness.

The family say Mr Xiao, the practice and Dr Ven Tan all failed to act in accordance with their duties of care. “The cessation of administration of insulin to Aidan Fenton from 22 April 2015 was a necessary condition of his death,” the legal claim said.

Dr Ven Tan and his medical practice have denied responsibility in their defences, arguing it was the Fenton family who behaved negligently in treating the workshop as medical advice.

They said Mr Fenton and his wife personally delivered four “custom-made Paidalajin stretching benches” to the medical practice in the days before the course, equipment that the couple had purchased from Mr Xiao’s Australian representative. The couple were “co-organisers of the workshop and/or [Mr Xiao’s] own staff, volunteer and/or followers who participated in the organisation of the workshop,” the defences state.

Ms Pan allegedly signed a registration form containing a warning in English and Chinese that people with severe health problems should not participate in the course and that nothing taught in it should be a substitute for medical advice. Mr Xiao has not filed a defence. At a brief hearing on Wednesday, the matter was adjourned to next year.

End of article

I’ve said it many times before, that a quack will almost never criticise a specific complementary medicine, because as soon as they do so, they highlight the fact that the principles upon which their ‘medicine’ or ‘treatment’ are based, is fake. And this is of course a problem, because all of their medicines and treatments, albeit homeopathy, TCM, chiropractic etc, are based on the same (fake) principles. Destroy the foundation of one and the whole house of cards collapse, and this is why they will always remain quiet about it.

Dr Ven Tan, who now luckily has been sued, had a wonderful opportunity to sincerely apologise for hosting this workshop and to warn the public about the dangers of  slapping therapy (and many other quack therapies doing the rounds). And of course, he could’ve explained why this therapy is built on fake principles. Why would he want to do this? Because he cares about your health!! Warn the public then!!! But no, as a true quack not a single word of warning, rather a somewhat brutal attack on the victim’s parents (the parents do indeed also carry part of the blame).  And this is so typical of quacks. Things go wrong, more often than most people would like, and then it is as if they tell the victims that it’s due to their own stupidity that they have fallen for their quackery. You know, please don’t blame the quack.

And that is how it goes in the strange world of quackery. And to think that those guys who are still getting away with it, has in the meantime cooperated with the Chinese Communist party to establish a TCM hospital in Sydney from where they can further internationalise TCM, in all its forms – and all of this just for money (lots of it). You can read about this unfolding tragedy here, here, here and here.

I truly hope that the NICM and the TGA will also one day face court because they are the ones giving credibility to these fake and dangerous healthcare options. But then again, they are so connected that they can squash anything.

Western Sydney University’s complementary medicine research institute promotes good news and ignores bad, critics say!

There are two very important aspects that the public should consider regarding any new medical treatment.

  1. Are there benefits and is this backed up with scientific evidence.
  2. What are the risks associated with this treatment.

Based on these two aspects, benefits vs risks, a consumer can make an informed decision. Usually when doctors or professors overemphasise the one aspect over the other then you should know that they probably have a “financial” finger in the pie. If the benefits are overstated and the risks ignored – then they really want to sell you this stuff.

Recently the NICM made the headlines.  A newspaper article  states “UWS complementary research institute promotes good news and ignores bad, critics say.” The overall impression is given that the NICM is misleading the public and the work that they do is completely dependent on what the CM industry wants. An example is given where research conducted at the NICM was being sold to the public in a misleading way – which the NICM of course denies. This specific study reports on the positive results of a 20-herb TCM clinical trial for people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  The misleading way in which the NICM sold this result to the public via radio interviews have been described here, here and here and the main reason for them to do this seems to be money.

That the NICM will continue to defend this can now again be seen where they state: “Professor Bensoussan said his was a rigorous study that was highly cited and its findings were “accurate and not misleading”. “The results showed statistically and clinically significant improvement in irritable bowel syndrome in both standardised and individualised Chinese medicine treatment groups by end of the 16 weeks intervention when compared to a placebo,”

They had a golden opportunity to tell the public the whole story which they again failed to do.  They use the term “highly cited” as an indication of quality and validity of their study. This should now convince the reader that they are doing high quality independent scientific research, thus you can trust the results. But an educated guess is that most of these citations originates from China where bizarrely enough close to 100% of clinical trials conducted on herbal TCM give positive results. A UK study on the other hand gave a much more balanced view and concluded that the major finding is actually ignored and that the results are optimistically interpreted.

But this is not really the point. Nowhere will you find the very important aspect of “risks”. Yes, the study concluded that there seems to be some benefit for IBS sufferers but no mention is made of the very long list of risks associated with taking herbs. The reason why they combine 20 herbs is to improve their chances of finding at least one molecule that will have a beneficial effect – I call this the shotgun approach. The problem is however that by doing this you also increase your risk 20-fold.

What the NICM should have said regarding this particular study is something like this. “ Our study showed that there seems to be some benefit, as compared to the placebo, for people suffering from IBS. However, based on the well known risks such as toxicity, adverse reactions, herb-herb interaction, herb-drug interaction, lack of quality control, adulteration ect. we cannot recommend this herbal treatment. The risks outweigh the benefits.”

It is however unfortunate that even after all this information was made available to the NICM they continue to provide the public with misleading information – and the recent newspaper article just confirms this. The NICM only focus on the positive results of their study and they completely ignore the negatives (risks). They will not change their stance and will continue on their path. However, the main positive outcome thus far of this newspaper article is that I have been contacted by the office of the NSW Minister of Health regarding this matter and hopefully this will now get the ball rolling.

What can you do about all of this?

Unfortunately, if you fall for their trickery and you get hurt, then you will be all alone. The bureaucracy involved is extremely complex so the best thing to do is prevention. Stop buying their products or using their treatments, and inform yourself and your family and friends about how these people play their game and what the dangers are regarding these ‘treatments’. ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ provides valuable healthcare information as well as the website of Prof Edzard Ernst, where he discusses everything complementary medicine (what works and what doesn’t). If you are interested in receiving automatic updates regarding the NICM and what they are up to, you can always follow my Blog,  Twitter or connect on LinkedIn. Will keep you posted regarding the outcome of the 2017 Bent Spoon awards (the NICM has obviously been nominated), and please, ‘Like’ and share this article via FaceBook etc. – options below.