As it is ‘ACUPUNCTURE AWARENESS WEEK’, I thought I make a constructive contribution to this field by assessing what is currently being published on the subject. For this purpose, I looked at the first 100 Medline-listed articles of 2016. This has the advantage, of course, that all the numbers thus generated can be seen as absolute and as percentage figures at the same time. I categorised the articles according to where they were published and what their subject was.
My results show that, of the first 100 articles,
- 33 were published in CAM journals,
- 67 were published in mainstream medical journals,
- 6 were RCTs,
- 6 were other clinical studies,
- 30 were pre-clinical investigations,
- 27 were systematic reviews,
- 8 were surveys,
- 23 were other types of papers.
I have to admit, these results are not as bad as I had feared. What seems impressive is foremost the notion that acupuncture research has entered the mainstream journals. But there are issues that might be of concern; in my view these results suggest that:
- Too little research is focussed on the two big questions: efficacy and safety.
- In relation to the meagre output in RCTs, there are too many systematic reviews.
- As long as we cannot be sure that acupuncture is more than a placebo, all these pre-clinical studies seem a bit out of place.
- The vast majority of the articles were in low or very low impact journals.
- There was only one paper that I would consider outstanding (my next post will discuss it).
So, what conclusions can one draw from these data?
Not many, I fear.
My little exploration does not lend itself to grand, generalizable or far-reaching conclusions. Acupuncture fans might proudly say: LOOK HOW FAR WE HAVE COME! Less enthusiastic experts, however, might think: LOOK HOW FAR YOU HAVE TO GO!