Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

More bloated acupuncture claims

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 28, 2009

A new press release boasts that a new “Ground-breaking Infertility Study Confirms Laser Acupuncture Improves IVF Pregnancy Rates“, which of course is nonsense. The press release is the usual sensational, hype filled ad for some clinic in Connecticut. Of course the press release does not link to any study, and a precursory review of the clinic’s website also fails to bring up any news items or links related to said phantom study. All we have to go on is the sensational press release. This on its own is enough of a red flag to begin with. When coupled with the fact that it seems the “study” was apparently conducted by the clinic itself and doesn’t seem to have been published anywhere, it gives us a good idea where this is headed. Nevertheless let us look at the PR itself.

Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) announced today the results of a recently conducted survey that showed the use of laser acupuncture performed both before and after embryo transfer during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, improves a women’s chances of implantation by up to 15%.

First, 15% as compared to what? What were the controls in place? How did the fake acupuncture group fare? All these questions remain unanswered, because the “study” was not published anywhere. Secondly, this is not even a study, but a survey, as per the press release itself. That adds more doubts to the reliability of these results as we are all well aware of how notoriously unreliable surveys are.

Growing medical evidence indicates that acupuncture may improve a woman’s chance of conceiving when performed in conjunction with IVF fertility treatments. Today, acupuncture is frequently used by women with infertility issues to help regulate menstrual cycles, reduce stress and improve blood flow to the pelvic area and uterine lining.

Actually no, medical evidence does not show that “acupuncture may improve a woman’s chance of conceiving“, nor does it show that it can help with regulating menstrual cycles or improve blood flow to the pelvis area. I challenge anyone to provide links to the scientific literature backing up that claim. I will give them the stress reduction thing, since stress has a big psychological factor.

The study, one of the largest clinical trials ever conducted on acupuncture, had 1,000 participants who were randomly assigned to one of five study groups. The first group received traditional acupuncture, the second group received laser acupuncture, while the third or “placebo group” thought (along with the acupuncturist and physician) that they also received laser acupuncture. The fourth, relaxation group lay in a dimly light room with soft music, and the last group received no treatment at all. All treatments were administered for 25 minutes before and after embryo transfer.

Ok, I’m officially confused. First they refer to it as a “survey” now it is “one of the largest clinical trials ever conducted on acupuncture”. Which one is it? The 4th and 5th groups are unnecessary, since the only real control group would be the fake acupuncture group. We are seeing this a lot, mingling in unneeded and not helpful “control groups” which are then used as comparison to claim that acupuncture works…..when even the fake acupuncture seems to work as compared to these groups. The next step in the charade is to claim that both real and fake acupuncture seem to work better than no acupuncture, when instead the more logical conclusion is that they are witnessing some sort of placebo.

“This exciting, first-of-its-kind study offers another tool to help couples achieve pregnancy, with only two painless treatments” said Dr. Mark Leondires, Medical Director at RMACT. “Our customized patient programs, personal attention, and leading research and technology, enable RMACT to provide each of our patients with the latest and most effective fertility treatment possible.” Currently, RMACT is the only fertility center in Connecticut to offer laser acupuncture. All of RMACT’s licensed acupuncturists have been trained in the use of laser acupuncture. To make an appointment or to learn more, call (800) 865-5431, or email inquiries(at)rmact(dot)com

I told this is just a big fat commercial didn’t I? In the spirit of skepticism I did contact RMAC through their “contact us” online form asking for information on the “study” that was so “groundbreaking” that they couldn’t even publish it on their own website for people like me to review. We’ll see if and how they reply. I’ll keep you posted if there are any further developments.

Conclusion

Hype, hype and nothing but unsubstantiated hype. Laser acupuncture is no more credible than regular acupuncture and that is saying a lot. As of right now there is no indication that acupuncture works any better than a placebo. The phantom study referred to in this press release does nothing to advance the acupuncturists’ claims, as it seems to be nonexistent at the moment. Until this study is published somewhere, we have no other choice but to reject it as pure marketing.

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