An overview of two Cochrane systematic reviews of complementary treatments for chronic asthma: acupuncture and homeopathy



An overview of two Cochrane systematic reviews of complementary treatments for chronic asthma: acupuncture and homeopathy








Research Type

Systematic Review



BACKGROUND: Acupuncture and homeopathy are commonly used complementary treatments for chronic asthma. This review summarizes two recently updated Cochrane systematic reviews that assess the safety and efficacy of homeopathy or acupuncture in individuals with chronic stable asthma. INCLUSION CRITERIA: Only randomized-controlled trials were considered for inclusion. Statistical aggregation of the data was undertaken where possible. SEARCH STRATEGY: Searches for both reviews were done with the assistance of the Cochrane Airways Group, and through electronic alerts. RESULTS: ACUPUNCTURE: 11 studies with 324 participants met the inclusion criteria. Trial reporting was poor, and the trial quality was deemed inadequate to generalize the findings. There was variation in the type of active and sham acupunctures, the outcomes assessed and the time points measured. The points used in the sham arm of some studies are used for the treatment of asthma according to traditional Chinese medicine. Two studies used individualized treatment strategies, and one study used a combination strategy of formula acupuncture with the addition of individualized points. No statistically significant or clinically relevant effects were found for acupuncture compared with sham acupuncture. When data from two small studies were pooled, no difference in lung function was observed (post-treatment FEV1): standardized mean difference 0.12, 95% confidence interval 0.31 to 0.55). CONCLUSION: ACUPUNCTURE: There is not enough evidence to recommend the use of acupuncture in the treatment of asthma. Further research needs to be undertaken, and this should take into account the different types of acupuncture practiced. RESULTS: HOMEOPATHY: Six trials with a total of 556 people were included in the review. These trials were all placebo-controlled and double-blind, but were of variable quality. Standardized treatments in these trials are unlikely to represent common homeopathic practice where treatment tends to be individualized. The results of the studies are conflicting in terms of effects on lung function. There has been only a limited attempt to measure a "package of care" effect (i.e. the effect of the medication as well as the consultation, which is considered a vital part of individualized homeopathic practice). CONCLUSION: HOMEOPATHY: There is not enough evidence to reliably assess the possible role of homeopathy in the treatment of asthma. Further studies could assess whether individuals respond to a "package of care" rather than the homeopathic intervention alone

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Respiratory Tract Diseases

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