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The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review
Abstract and Figures
Background The acupuncture evidence project investigated the state of the evidence regarding acupuncture, with the focus on systematic reviews and meta-analyses. The Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs 2010 Alternative Therapies Review and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Acupuncture Evidence Map 2014 were used as baselines, then evidence levels were updated to reflect subsequent research. Methods A search of PubMed and Cochrane Library for systematic reviews and meta-analyses from March 2013 to September 2016 was conducted. Three reviews from October 2016 to January 2017 were also included. Evidence levels were graded using NHMRC levels. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane GRADE system where possible. All results were displayed in tables to demonstrate changes in evidence level over time, as well as the current state of evidence by clinical area. Results Of the 122 conditions reviewed, evidence of effect was found at various levels for 117 conditions. Five conditions were assessed as ‘no evidence of effect’. The level of evidence had increased for 24 conditions since the previous reviews. The findings of this review are limited by the mounting evidence that sham/placebo controls used in acupuncture trials are not inert, which is likely to lead to a consistent underestimation of the true effect size of acupuncture interventions. Conclusions Systematic reviews published up to January 2017 indicate that acupuncture has a ‘positive effect’ on eight conditions (migraine prophylaxis, headache, chronic low back pain, allergic rhinitis, knee osteoarthritis, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, post-operative nausea and vomiting and post-operative pain), ‘potential positive effect’ on a further 38 conditions, ‘unclear/insufficient evidence’ for 71 conditions and ‘no evidence of effect’ for five conditions. Evidence of cost-effectiveness was identified for 10 conditions, and evidence for safety was identified for nine conditions.
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