Acupuncture—help, harm, or placebo?

The most recent meta-analysis appearing in Fertility and Sterility on acupuncture was reevaluated in view of the marked heterogeneity of interventions, controls, data analysis, and timing of interventions.

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David R. Meldrum, M.D., Andrew R. Fisher, B.S.E., Samantha F. Butts, M.D., M.S.C.E., H. Irene Su, M.D., M.S.C.E., Mary D. Sammel, Sc.D.

Volume 99, Issue 7, Pages 1821-1824, June 2013


The most recent meta-analysis appearing in this journal on acupuncture was reevaluated in view of the marked heterogeneity of interventions, controls, data analysis and timing of interventions in the trials that were included. After removing some of the trials and data based on more rigorous standards for a high quality meta-analysis, a significant benefit of the intervention could no longer be shown. When studies with and without placebo controls were analyzed separately, a placebo effect was suggested. Individual trials with a confidence limit below unity emphasized the potential for a detrimental impact on outcomes, which should be considered both in using acupuncture clinically as an adjunct for IVF and in design of future trials. Much more data that includes a placebo control will be required before a conclusion can be made that acupuncture has a true treatment effect on IVF outcomes. However, unless the timing and method of the acupuncture are standardized, practitioners will still have difficulty being sure that their particular method will help beyond the apparent benefit provided by a placebo.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. The journal publishes juried original scientific articles in clinical and laboratory research relevant to reproductive endocrinology, urology, andrology, physiology, immunology, genetics, contraception, and menopause. Fertility and Sterility® encourages and supports meaningful basic and clinical research, and facilitates and promotes excellence in professional education, in the field of reproductive medicine.