The headline in June's BJGP says that five-element acupuncture ‘has a significant and sustained benefit’ [print version only].1 The associated editorial says that the review offers ‘more evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture’.2 The heading on the front cover says ‘Acupuncture: effective …’.
I feel that these are misleading. Many GPs, and the media, rely on the headlines and editorials to be accurate, as we don't have time to read every article. What this rather small study actually shows is that the whole acupuncture consultation made a significant difference in just one of the three wellbeing scores used, but did not make a significant difference in two of the three scores, nor in consultation rates.1 The authors acknowledge that their study does not show that needling itself was responsible for any changes seen, and also explain that they didn't choose a sham-acupuncture control because it may ‘interfere with the participative patient-therapist interaction’.1
I am not going to debate here all the other evidence regarding acupuncture, but I feel strongly that the BJGP needs to be more responsible in how it headlines articles and in printing editorials that make claims regarding efficacy that is not supported by the evidence.
- © British Journal of General Practice 2011