Acupuncture effective, safe, cost-effective

Oamaru acupuncturist Rick Loos has taken issue with an Otago Daily Times feature headed ''Needled by doubt''.

Author David Derbyshire (17.8.13) took a very dim view of acupuncture judging from his opening statement that acupuncture remains unproven and his conclusion that acupuncture is entirely based on lies and deceit.

Yet, on closer inspection, the bulk of the negative comments peppered throughout the article stem from one particularly irrational ''rationalist'', Emeritus Prof David Colquhoun, whose opinions fly in the face of the large body of research that has validated acupuncture in the past 30 years.

To his credit, Mr Derbyshire cites recent meta-analyses of acupuncture and their positive findings, such as the 2011 Cactus trial which rated acupuncture as providing lasting benefit for conditions which modern medicine can neither diagnose nor cure; and the 2012 Memorial Sloan-Kettering study in which 17,922 patients received a 15% to 20% improvement over placebo.

He could also have provided some historical background by citing the 1996 re-classification of the acupuncture needle to a Class II medical device by America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which lifted the ban on medical and therapeutic claims for acupuncture; and the landmark 1997 Consensus Conference on Acupuncture held at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington to evaluate scientific and medical data on the uses, risks and benefits of acupuncture procedures.

The NIH conference concluded that, despite ongoing research design challenges, acupuncture was effective for chemotherapy nausea and dental pain, and an acceptable alternative for addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma, with further promising results emerging.

The conference statement concluded: ''There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture's value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.''

The World Health Organisation (WHO) endorses acupuncture as a safe and effective, as well as cost-effective, treatment for some 40 different health conditions.

Acupuncture is a time-tested therapy, so what's the problem? Proponents of scientism want to fit Chinese medicine into a Western straitjacket - a bad case of one culture taking the moral high ground, ignoring the richness of another and demanding that it conform to arbitrarily imposed standards.

Mr Derbyshire, for example, refers to the double-blind, randomised controlled trial as the ''gold standard'' of clinical investigation but by the next paragraph is forced to admit that it could never be applied to acupuncture as it is a procedure, not a pill.

The FDA has long rejected the use of sham acupuncture as inappropriate yet rabid researchers like Edzard Ernst persevere with telescopic needles to trick patients into believing they received acupuncture. This obsession to ''debunk'' acupuncture is not science but desperate and embittered anti-science.

Likewise, Mr Derbyshire's article, disguised as objective appraisal, is a vitriolic attack full of inflammatory statements, ending in the bizarre and unfounded accusation that acupuncture is no more than a placebo effect, giving my friend the false impression that acupuncture does not work.


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