The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

  • Common sense considerations

    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    Acupuncture: Clinically meaningful and cost-effective?

    Researchers from the University of York, in the UK say it’s time to move on from asking if acupuncture is more effective than placebo.

    First, the details.

    • They reviewed the evidence supporting acupuncture for the most commonly occurring forms of chronic pain (back, knee, and head).
    • 8 systematic reviews with meta-analyses of pooled data were included.

    And, the results.

    • Short-term outcomes
      • Acupuncture was significantly better than sham for back pain, knee pain, and headache.
    • Longer-term outcomes (6 to12 months)
      • Acupuncture was significantly more effective for knee pain and tension-type headache but inconsistent for back pain (one positive and one inconclusive study).
    • In general, the differences between treatments were relatively small.

    The bottom line?

    The authors concluded, “The accumulating evidence from recent reviews suggests that acupuncture is more than a placebo for commonly occurring chronic pain conditions.”

    They continue, “If this conclusion is correct, then we ask the question: is it now time to shift research priorities away from asking placebo-related questions and shift toward asking more practical questions about whether the overall benefit is clinically meaningful and cost-effective?”

    At least 2 other studies from the same university suggest, “For persistent non-specific low back pain, acupuncture appears to provide a modest benefit to health, at a relatively minor extra cost to the UK healthcare system.”

    1/15/10 21:32 JR

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