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Summaries of recent papers
  1. Adrian White1,
  2. Mark Langweiler2,
  3. Michael Meinen3
  1. 1Primary Care Group, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Plymouth, Devon, UK
  2. 2Welsh Institute of Chiropractic, University of South Wales, Treforest, UK
  3. 3Denton Park Health Centre, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adrian White, Honorary University Fellow, N14 ITTC Building, Plymouth Science Park, Plymouth PL6 8BX, UK; Adrian.white{at}

Statistics from

Clinical effectiveness

Sore throat

▸ Moss DA, Crawford P. Ear acupuncture for acute sore throat: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Board Fam Med 2015;28:697–705.

Pragmatic randomised controlled trial (RCT) (n=54) of auricular acupuncture plus standard treatment versus standard treatment.


Adults presenting with sore throat were randomly enrolled for either standard treatment (ibuprofen 600 mg) or standard treatment plus ear acupuncture (points chosen from cingulate gyrus, thalamus, omega 2, point zero, Shenmen; unilateral or bilateral, semipermanent needles, to stay in place until falling out spontaneously). Antibiotics were prescribed depending on the result of a rapid Streptococcus antigen test. Pain scores (not defined) were measured before treatment, and 15 min, 6, 24 and 48 h post-treatment.


Fifty-six patients were enrolled, two were lost to follow-up. As shown in figure 1, participants in the acupuncture group reported significantly lower pain scores at 15 min (2.6 vs 6.0; p<0.0001), 6 h (2.5 vs 4.8; p=0.0005), and 24 h (1.9 vs 4.1), but not at 48 h (1.3 vs 2.3; p=0.063). Less consumption of pain relief medication was reported in the acupuncture group. No significant difference was found between the two groups with regards to time off work.

Figure 1

Sore throat pain scores, units not stated. Based on J Am Board Fam Med 28:697–705.


The authors found significant improvement in pain relief from ear acupuncture added to pain relief medication. They achieved the number of subjects required according to their power calculation. The treatment was properly described and illustrated. However, there was no sham acupuncture group, and no blinding. From the perspective of a general practitioner (GP) in the National Health Service, how clinically significant is a treatment that gives benefit for <48 h, in a condition that settles spontaneously within a few days?


▸ Sriprasert I, Suerungruang S, Athilarp P, et al. Efficacy of acupuncture versus combined oral contraceptive pill in treatment of …

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