Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis (Acupuncture Trialists' Collaboration)
Hugh MacPherson has helped conduct one of the largest studies of acupuncture for chronic
pain conditions, including the conditions of back and neck pain, osteoarthritis and chronic headaches. The project, known as the Acupuncture Triallists' Collaboration, has been led by Dr Andrew Vickers and funded primarily by the US National Institutes for Health and also in part by the UK National Institute for Health Research as part of MacPherson's Programme Grant for Applied Research.
The results were first published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012. Individual patient data from 29 randomized controlled trials with 17,922 patients were analysed and the results show that acupuncture is better than usual care and better than sham (placebo) acupuncture for the treatment of back and neck pain, osteoarthritis and chronic headaches/migraines. From the publication, the authors state, "Our results from individual patient data meta-analyses of nearly 18,000 randomized patients in high-quality RCTs provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain."(Vickers et al 2012)
A number of sub-studies have been published (see right hand panel), and a more recently updated and enlarged meta-analysis that includes trials published up to and including 2015. (Vickers et al 2018)
Within the Programme Grant the work of the ATC was developed further, with fresh additional results presented on acupuncture for chronic pain and, in particular, for osteoarthritis (see OAK project).
This programme of research has in part been summarised by the NIHR Dissemination Centre Discover Portal, where it is stated by NIHR that, "Acupuncture is not a placebo for treatment of chronic pain". [NIHR video] [Read NIHR Signal].
Citation for Programme Grant: MacPherson H, Vickers A, Bland M, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research. Programme Grants Appl Res 2017;5(3).[Full text]