Objective The aim of the Programme for the Evaluation of Patient care with Acupuncture (PEP-Ac) was to investigate the efficacy, effectiveness and safety of acupuncture in patients with the following three indications: chronic headache, chronic low back pain and chronic osteoarthritic pain. This article provides an overview of the results of the whole programme.
Methods The programme included five randomised trials, a large observational study, a survey of physicians providing acupuncture, and three systematic reviews.
Results The results show that, for all three indications, acupuncture, when compared to no treatment, produces a clear benefit that lasts for at least several months. However the effects of point-specific acupuncture only offered a significant advantage over minimal acupuncture in the treatment of OA knee.
Conclusions The evidence from these trials – on the one hand, a clear overall effect of acupuncture and on the other hand, the lack of evidence supporting its superiority over sham acupuncture for all indications except osteoarthritis of the knee – leaves a considerable amount of room for interpretation.
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