Sometimes they are a little late to the party, but finally the NHS has realized that acupuncture has not passed the mustard when it comes to randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled clinical studies
Acupuncture is no longer recommended as a treatment for low back pain on the NHS, according to new draft guidelines released today by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).
The u-turn comes after a review of scientific evidence found that the practice was no better than a placebo in treating those living with low back pain and sciatica.
The draft guidelines report that there have now been a large number of scientific trials looking into the effectiveness of acupuncture but that, “there was still not compelling and consistent evidence of a treatment-specific effect for acupuncture.”
Low back pain is thought affect one in 10 people, while its cost to the UK economy is estimated to exceed £12 billion a year in lost productivity.
Nice guidelines from 2009 on the early management of low back pain recommended that healthcare providers “consider offering a course of acupuncture needling comprising up to a maximum of 10 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks.”
But the new draft guidelines, now covering sciatica as well as low back pain, contain an unequivocal volte-face, stating: “Do not offer acupuncture for managing non-specific low back pain with or without sciatica.”
When you have government-funded health care, it is generally a good idea to avoid spending money on treatments that do not work better than a sugar pill.
Next step? Perhaps include treatments under the NHS coverage only when they are proven to work, and not excluding them only when they are proven not to work 30 times. But hey, that’s just my suggestion.