Tuesday, July 08, 2008

BBC Report Finds Acupuncture No Help for In Vitro Fertilization

Much thanks to a friend of mine who brought this story to my attention.

Acupuncture is apparently the most popular form of complimentary therapy used by patients seeking In vitro fertilization (IVF) in England. London-based researchers recently presented the findings of an analysis covering 13 trials and approximately 2,500 women to a European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in Barcelona. The analysis did not show any benefits to treating IVF patients with acupuncture.

"The experts from Guy's and St Thomas' NHS (the UK's National Health Service) Trust carried out an extensive evaluation of the research carried out over the last 50 years."

"Five of the trials analysed by the team looked at the effect of acupuncture at the time of egg retrieval, while the other eight examined the benefits of giving it at the time of embryo implantation."

"Neither group of studies showed any difference in pregnancy rates between those given true acupuncture, those given a sham version and those given nothing."

"Dr Sesh Kamal Sunkara, who led the work, said, based on the evidence she had analysed, she would not advise her patients that having the therapy could improve their chances of having a baby through IVF."

Not surprisingly, Paul Robin, chairman of The Acupuncture Society of England, said he was really surprised by the findings.

"'I've been treating people for twenty years,' Robin said, 'and in my experience treatment does seem to improve their chances of becoming pregnant.'"

Unfortunately, Robin did not cite any studies in support of his claims. In the scientific community, where researchers often ask for a pesky thing called "evidence," anecdotal accounts of a treatment working are not good enough.

A detailed description of what acupuncture is and what practitioners claim it does can be found here. Put simply, it is a traditional Chinese medical technique that claims to unblock the flow of "chi" in one's body by inserting thin needles into the body at specific points. Unblocking "chi" allegedly balances the bodies opposing forces, known as the "yin" and "yang."

The mysterious energy known as "chi," a force which allegedly permeates everything, has yet to be documented by modern science. You'd think practitioners of alternative medicinal techniques that claim to manipulate "chi" would be working their collective yangs off to prove to the mainstream scientific community that "chi" actually exists. Not only would they no longer be scoffed at by their counterparts (I refuse to use the word colleague) in modern medicine, the ones to prove "chi" exists would most likely win a Nobel prize in physics. But honestly, who would want that Stockholm piece of crap and a measly US$1.6 million when they could potentially pull down a chunk of the approximately US$500 million a year made by acupuncturists in the United States?

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