To be true to the meta-analysis study, the headline should really read:
Acupuncture might help one out of ten women get pregnant via IVF treatment at Chinese clinics that have relatively low rates of success; patients in European clinics with high rates of success will get no benefit.
Let me break this down into easy to read bullet points:
- This is not a new study just a meta-analysis of seven previously published studies
- These studies used different methodologies and we don’t know what the selection criteria was or what bias there might have been
- The studies at European clinics showed no effect
- The only studies that showed any effect were Chinese IVF clinic studies
- Chinese clinic studies were somewhat over-represented in the meta-analysis
- Chinese clinics had lower rates of IVF success overall
- Research in China is plagued by plagiarism and fraud
- Since the only positive research came from Chinese research this calls the entire meta-analysis into doubt
- Unless — acupuncture only works in China — Ha!
For a more in depth breakdown on this recent study, read Peter Sanderson’s blog post Misleading acupuncture / IVF headlines.
In another study back in september, acupuncture was shown to have no effect beyond the placebo effect. Again the media distorted this acupuncture study. Others have already done an excellent job dissecting the acupuncture back pain studies here and here.
The only real conclusion to make from all of this is that acupuncture has one solidly empirical benefit: with enough positive manipulation any researcher can get international headlines.