Field of Science

And what else is acupuncture good for?

"Unclear whether acupuncture helps fertility"
I love this headline from Yahoo News/Reuters! It just appeared today on the Yahoo News site. So acupuncture doesn't boost pregnancy rates? What a surprise! I can't resist the obvious: acupuncture also doesn't help cure back pain, headaches, infections, depression, or cancer. In fact, the list of conditions that acupuncture doesn't help is endless!

But the Reuters reporter wasn't just making this up - there really was a presentation in London by a researcher, Sesh Sunkara, who conducted a review of 13 other studies (a meta-analysis) and found that "the current available evidence is not conclusive" on acupuncture's benefits on fertility. She apparently reported her results at the conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. The findings were also reported online by reporter Mark Henderson at the Times, under the headline
"Acupuncture has 'no effect' on pregnancy rates following IVF, say experts"
The Times reports that there was a reason for this study, which otherwise might raise eyebrows (why on earth do a study for which there's no plausible reason to find a positive effect?): in England, and maybe elsewhere, "acupuncture has become the most popular complementary therapy" for infertility. A number of hospitals in England have on-site acupuncture services for their patients, charging hundreds of pounds for the sessions.

Dr. Sunkara is quoted in the Times story as saying:
...every day we have patients who ask whether they should have acupuncture to improve their success rate. There have been all sorts of papers saying that sticking pins and needles increases the pregnancy rate, which have been widely reported in the media, and we are looking at women who are very vulnerable, who want to do everything possible to increase their pregnancy chances.
It's sad but true: practitioners of quack medicine - in which I include acupuncture - are quite happy to profit from the desperation of naive people who are looking for medical help. Kudos to Dr. Kundara.

And a big fat raspberry to Paul Robin, the chairman of the British Acupuncture Society, who is shocked, shocked to hear these results: "I've been treating people for 20 years and in my experience treatment does seem to improve their chances of becoming pregnant." Right, Mr. Robin - so will you be finding some other occupation now? Or maybe reducing your fees? Somehow I doubt it.

I invite readers of this forum to suggest other headines on treatments that don't work. How about "Homeopathy doesn't cure common cold"? The possibilities are endless.

1 comment:

  1. How about "Chelation does not cure autism". Have you seen this:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080709/ap_on_he_me/med_autism_research

    Put Carla K. Johnson on your short list of respectable journalists.

    ReplyDelete

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