Is it utterly a placebo effect?

What Do Science communicators Think about acupunture in the UK?

The people’s interest in acupuncture has fluctuated in several decades in the UK. However, the British science communicators have constantly argued that the effect of acupuncture is suspicious. What are their opinions and which factors make them to make the concrete decision.

At the present time, Simon Sigh and Ben Goldacre are the most famous science writers in the UK . They recently published their own books containing a sceptical view of acupuncture.

Firstly, Simon Sigh wrote a book, Trick or Treatment, with Edzard Ernst, the first complementary medical professor in the UK. In his book, he argued against 4 popular complementary and alternative medicines (CAM): acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic therapy, and hermal therapy.

He argued that the effect of acupuncture is suspicious because of several reasons. First of all, the mechanism how acupuncture works is unclear. He introduced the traditional Chinese medicine’s paradigm, Q’i; however, he said there is no ‘scientific’ evidence of it. Then, he mentioned the clinical trial, a modern medical method to prove the effect of medicine. These days, as acupuncture has widely trasmitted to the Western, many organisations includig WHO(the World Health Organisation) have tried to cover acupuncture within the conventional medicine. And, the clinical trial is a typical way to confirm that acupuncture can be covered in the western medicine.

Simon Sigh spent a lot of pages to explain several clinical trials about acupuncture. But he said that these trials showed no evdience of that acupuncture works for diseases. Then, he concluded that acupuncture is likely to a placebo effect rather than an effective cure.

The other author, Ben Goldacre, also showed a result of clinical trial about acupuncture in his book, Bad Science. Virtually, Ben Goldacre also insisited that it is not sure that acupuncture really works. (Although there is no independent section about acupunture in his book, he introduced it in the ‘Homeopathy’ section and the ‘Placebo effect’ section.) In his book, there is a graph to show the percentage with short-term improvement. He said, ‘a review of trials of acupuncture for back pain showed that the studies which were properly blinded showed a tiny benefit for acupuncture, which was not “statistically significant”. Meanwhile, the trials which were not blinded – the ones where the patients knew whether they were in the treatment group or not – showed a massive, statistically significant benefit for acupuncture.

Interestingly, complementary medical doctors explained the same result in the opposite way. Simon Sigh used the result of clinical trial by German scentists. According to the news article on the Peninsula Medical School website, a school of Edzard Ernst, a researcher of the group in University of Heidelberg, said: ‘Our first clinical trial suggests that acupuncture does indeed have benefits, at least in shoulder pain’. Like this, the clinical trials can not become a proper way to prove whether acupuncture works or not.


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Filed under Acupuncture in Britain, Science writings

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