About the Article

Published in: Vol. 5, No. 4
Category: Analyses

About the Author

David W. Ramey and Wallace Sampson


“Alternative” Medicine: A Review of Studies Supported by Grants Awarded by the NCCAM


The Use of a Dietary Supplement Combination and an Essential Fatty Acid for Children with ADHD


Review of the Evidence for the Clinical Efficacy of Human Acupuncture

Abstract. Context: Acupuncture effectiveness should have to be demonstrated by consistent research results and require explanations consistent with modern knowledge. However, clinical trials, meta-analyses, and reviews of acupuncture efficacy have shown conflicting results and have yielded conflicting recommendations. This overall review of meta-analyses and reviews asseses overall efficacy of acupuncture as a method.

Objectives: We collected reviews and meta-analyses of acupuncture for various symptoms published since 1990 in order to estimate overall general effectiveness as well as effectiveness for specific conditions.

Data Sources: We recorded 33 literature reviews for 17 clinical conditions, containing over 200 evaluable clinical trials from 1990 to the present using MEDLINE as a primary database source. Three recent review books were secondary sources. We then recorded the review authors’ conclusions from each review.

Study selection: All systematic reviews and meta-analyses found were included in the review.

Data extraction: Outcome of each review was classified according to authors’ conclusions of effective, indeterminate effectiveness, or ineffective. No attempt was made to grade the quality of each review. No attempt was made to pool data or to compare reviews within the specified symptom categories.

Data synthesis: Review of 33 meta-analyses and systematic reviews showed a positive effect in a majority of trials for only 2 symptoms (nausea and dental pain) and then only by a slim majority and under specific conditions. For the remainder of conditions tested, the majority of trials showed either inconclusive results or no effect.

Conclusion: Effectiveness could not be established with confidence for any condition studied. Taken as a group, reviews of clinical studies published since 1990 on the clinical efficacy of acupuncture do not support the notion that acupuncture is effective for any variety of conditions and cast doubt on efficacy for some specific conditions for which acupuncture has been reported as effective.

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