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Eval Health Prof. 2009 Dec;32(4):393-409. doi: 10.1177/0163278709353394.

Interpretive bias in acupuncture research?: A case study.

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  • 1Centre for Research in Rehabilitation, School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, West London, United Kingdom.


Acupuncture is one of the most widely used and broadly researched of the complementary and alternative therapies, but high-quality trials generally show no benefit over sham acupuncture. Many would view this result as evidence of ineffectiveness for this intervention. This discussion article focuses on the report of a large multicenter randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for chronic low-back pain (CLBP) in the lay and academic press, the ensuing discussion, and its impact on both clinical practice and service provision. The authors suggest that interpretive bias has affected reporting, leading to questionable conclusions and advocacy in favor of this form of care that may exceed the evidence. They also suggest that a lack of understanding of research into the placebo effect may have contributed to confusion in the interpretation of these trials.

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