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Efficacy, effectiveness, safety and costs of acupuncture for chronic pain – results of a large research initiative
  1. Claudia M Witt, senior lecturer,
  2. Benno Brinkhaus, senior lecturer,
  3. Thomas Reinhold, economist,
  4. Stefan N Willich
  1. Institute of Social Medicine, Charité University Medical Centre, Berlin, Germany
  1. claudia.witt{at}


Background The aim of the ‘Acupuncture Model Project of the Techniker Krankenkasse’ was to determine efficacy, effectiveness, safety and cost effectiveness of acupuncture treatment in standard medical care.

Methods We evaluated a total of 304 674 patients (34.5% men, aged 53.1?13.8 and 65.5% women, aged 49.5±14.2) who were in the care of over 10 000 physicians and received on average 10?3 acupuncture treatments for chronic pain (osteoarthritis of the hip or knee, low back pain, neck pain, headache) during a period of three months.

Results and conclusions Our findings demonstrate that for the diagnoses examined, acupuncture in addition to usual care was an effective and safe treatment. Whether the effects of acupuncture can be attributed primarily to specific or nonspecific mechanisms appeared to depend on the diagnosis, and should be investigated in further studies. Using acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment was more expensive than usual care alone, but was cost-effective according to internationally accepted threshold values.

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