ALHAMBRA (AP) — An acupuncturist in Southern California could have his medical license suspended by state regulators who claim he used bee stings to treat patients and didn’t have an allergic reaction kit in his office.
Xin Sheng “Tom” Zhou has been using bee sting therapy to treat diseases and chronic pain at his practice in Alhambra. Bee venom acupuncture has been used in eastern Asia since at least the 2nd century B.C.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Acupuncture Board filed an accusation against Zhou in July.
The board claims Zhou was repeatedly and grossly negligent in administering the bee stings by not having an emergency response kit or medication for patients who experience a severe allergy.
“The use of a bee stinger as the delivery mechanism of venom is not within the standard of care and is considered to be an extreme departure from the standard of care,” the medical board complaint states.
Zhou’s attorney told the Pasadena Star News no patients have suffered a severe reaction.
“The board’s biggest problem is the use of the bee stinger,” John Dratz Jr., Zhou’s attorney, said. “They don’t have a problem with bee venom. Bee sting therapy is the most effective way to deliver it historically, and it’s still being used.”
Dratz said they believe the therapy is safe.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved bee sting therapy. Dr. Michael Levine, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, told the newspaper it could potentially be dangerous if a patient has a life-threatening allergic reaction. He added that there is “incredibly limited human data” to show there is a health benefit.
Dratz said if a patient does have an allergic reaction, Zhou can use herbal medicine and acupuncture or an EpiPen to relieve them.
Despite the medical board’s accusations, Zhou’s practice is still bustling.
Monica Weerasinghe, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease, comes in for weekly hour-long sessions. Zhou’s assistant said two years ago Weersinghe could barely speak a word but after two treatments was able to talk and walk again.