$50k fine and costs after ‘shocking’ unlawful advertising

A NSW Chinese medicine practitioner has landed in hot water after making claims about treating cancer and autism

Qi Xin Chen was convicted of unlawful advertising of a regulated health service after an AHPRA investigation.

Mr Chen, a registered Chinese medicine practitioner, was sentenced in the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney after pleading guilty to 30 charges filed by AHPRA in August 2018.

Mr Chen was convicted and was fined $1,500 per offence, adding up to a total of $45,000, by the Court.

He was also ordered to pay $5,000 towards AHPRA’s legal costs.

Mr Chen owns and operates a business, the Australian Natural Medicine Centre in Gladesville NSW, which provides Chinese medicine services.

He was convicted of false, misleading or deceptive advertising through the publication on his websites of several articles about the treatment of cancer. 

Mr Chen was also convicted of using testimonials in his advertising, as this is prohibited under the National Law and  would have created for consumers an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, and which contained claims that a patient had been successfully treated for cancer entirely using Chinese medicine.

There were numerous testimonials on his websites which also detailed treatments, supposedly provided by Mr Chen, for many forms of cancer (often targeted at those in advanced stages) and other health conditions such as asthma, autism and fertility issues.

The testimonials were considered particularly shocking given they targeted such vulnerable individuals, the court noted.

In addressing Mr Chen, the Magistrate commented that as a health practitioner he has a responsibility for patient safety, and could put lives at risk through his actions and bring into disrepute the wider profession.

AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher welcomed the outcome, saying it sends an important message to anyone advertising a regulated health service that AHPRA will act if they break the law.

“Making false claims about treating serious illnesses is both unethical and illegal. Advertising can heavily influence a patient’s decision-making around their healthcare needs,” he said.

“AHPRA and the National Boards are committed to preventing this and will continue to take action against unlawful advertising in the best interests of consumers.”

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