Embargoed materials for Complementary & Integrative Medicine Conference

effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the procedure remains unclear.

In a study presented at The North American Research Conference on Complementary and Integrative Medicine held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, May 24th-27th, 2006, 632 patients aged e40 years with chronic arthritis of the hip and the knee were randomly assigned to receive up to 15 acupuncture sessions over 3 months or to receive no acupuncture. All study participants were allowed to receive additional usual medical care covered by health insurance companies.

The investigators used questionnaires to assess symptoms of osteoarthritis and health related quality of life at the start of the trial, and then after 3 and 6 months. Data for direct costs and sick leave (number of days absent from work) were provided by the health insurance companies.

After 3 months of treatment, symptoms of osteoarthritis decreased in patients in the acupuncture group but not in those receiving routine care alone, an effect which persisted for up to 6 months. In addition, quality of life improved significantly more in the acupuncture group.

While the acupuncture treatment was associated with higher overall costs, there were more quality adjusted life years gained in the acupuncture group compared with the group receiving routine care alone. Therefore, acupuncture for patients with osteoarthritis can be regarded as cost-effective, the authors concluded.

Acupuncture originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest medical procedures in the world. According to The Arthritis Foundation, acupuncture therapy has been tried by an estimated 15 million Americans, and it is offered in many chronic pain clinics and is covered by some insurers and managed heath organizations. The World Health Organization recommends it for more than 40 conditions from asthma to chronic pain. Costs vary, but generally a first visit costs from $75 to $150, and follow-up visits are $35 to


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