How the mighty are fallen

It is sad to see a venerable publication like Pediatric Research publishing total drivel.

For reasons that escape me, the latest, August 2015, edition starts with an “overview of the systematic reviews of acupuncture in children“.

The problem with a high quality journal, dedicated to good science, publishing this sort of nonsense is that it gives the impression that it is worth considering that acupuncture might have a real effect.

It is quite clear that acupuncture is nothing but a theatrical placebo. There is no physiologic basis for any real effect, there is no anatomic basis to the supposed existence of acupoints, and despite a whole slew of studies, no evidence of a real effect, for any disease.

Indeed it has been clearly shown that the tiny effects obtained in some studies are obtained no matter where you put the needles, or even if you don’t use needles at all, either not puncturing the skin or using toothpicks. Untrained operators are just as (in)effective as those with years of experience, effectiveness is related to how pleasant the person is who is sticking needles into you, not on where they put them, or how many or how often.

The published overview concludes that further studies are necessary because those published so far are crap, and non-one has actually died. I think that is a very poor justification for wasting time and resources and the goodwill of families. The authors of this overview do show that better quality systematic reviews show less effect, which is a clear red flag.

Studies of acupuncture in children are unethical. No more should be done. Sticking needles into children rather than giving them effective care, for whatever their illness may be, is a deluded practice that risks delaying appropriate therapy. Maybe no-one died in the studies that these systematic reviews included, but at least 90 deaths have occurred due to acupuncture. Ineffective interventions like acupuncture are certainly not worth dying for.

Steve Novella on the excellent blog “Science Based Medicine” dissects another recent study, and notes that acupuncture promoters have created “An industry of worthless studies“. He notes :

acupuncture should be abandoned as a scientific concept. It is a failed hypothesis that has added no real knowledge to our understanding of health and disease.

Come on Pediatric Research, lets return to reality-based medicine.

About Keith Barrington

I am a neonatologist and clinical researcher at Sainte Justine University Health Center in Montréal
This entry was posted in Neonatal Research. Bookmark the permalink.

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