To the Editors:
We read with interest the recent article, “Acupuncture—help, harm, or placebo?” by Meldrum et al. (1). We have one observation and one area of concern regarding the authors’ conclusions. The observation is focused on the dismissal of the efficacy of any impact of acupuncture on pregnancy rates as a placebo effect. First of all, the placebo effect is not to be taken lightly, and in fact may well be responsible for the efficacy of antidepressant medications, which appear to positively impact the psychological well-being of millions of Americans (2). Second, many of the randomized controlled trials on acupuncture do show a statistically significant impact on pregnancy rates. It is quite possible that acupuncture may only be effective with specific patient populations, analogous to assisted hatching (3). Finally, authors may influence the conclusions of any meta-analysis by shifting the criteria to include/exclude certain studies.
The area of concern is the recommendation, in the last paragraph, for patients to seek out education on lifestyle choices via a cited website rather than undergoing acupuncture treatment. There is a strong implication that the information provided on the website is more beneficial than acupuncture. It does not feel appropriate for an article in a peer-reviewed journal to be promoting a non-academic website. In addition, within the website are recommendations with links to purchase multiple products, including a wide range of supplements from a single manufacturer, such as fish oil, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, green tea extract, and CoQ10, none of which have randomized controlled trials to support their efficacy to increase pregnancy rates in the infertile population. In the section on stress, the link is to a website that promotes a downloadable stress management program, which cites a pregnancy rate of 83%, despite the fact that there has never been a study utilizing the program. Read the rest of this entry »