Efficacy, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis — An overview about previous and ongoing studies

  • C.M. Witt
    Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 30 450529002; fax: +49 30 450529917.
    Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, 10098 Berlin, Germany
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  • B. Brinkhaus
    Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, 10098 Berlin, Germany
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      In general, allergic rhinitis can be divided into seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) and perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR). In the following sections a summary of efficacy and effectiveness studies is presented. For this narrative review we selected studies based on the following parameters: publication in English, sample size30 patients, and at least 6 acupuncture sessions.
      Most studies aimed to evaluate the specific effects of acupuncture treatment. Only one study evaluated effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of additional acupuncture treatment. The studies which compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture always used a penetrating sham control. A medication control group was used in only two studies and one study combined acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
      This overview shows that the trials on efficacy and on effectiveness of acupuncture are very heterogeneous. Although penetrating sham controls were used predominantly, these also varied from superficial penetration at acupuncture points to superficial insertion at non-acupuncture points. Although there is some evidence that acupuncture as additional treatment is beneficial and relatively cost-effective, there is insufficient evidence for an acupuncture specific effect in SAR. In contrast, there is some evidence that acupuncture might have specific effects in patients with PAR. However, all of the published efficacy studies are small and conclusions should be made with care. Further studies with a larger sample size are urgently needed to draw more rigorous conclusions and the results of the ongoing trials will provide us with further information within the next two years.


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