When I write about junk medicine and pseudoscience, I generally stick to human medicine. Recently, I wrote about the asinine people who refuse canine vaccinations, which led me to search for other alternative veterinary medicine that mirrored those for humans. That’s when I ran into veterinary acupuncture.
I’ll explain the evidence in more detail later in this article, but it needs to be stated right up front – acupuncture is a pseudoscience unsupported by any real scientific evidence. Acupuncture is generally supported by anecdotes, which are not data, and terrible clinical studies that, at best, show acupuncture to be nothing more than a placebo.
Given the lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of veterinary acupuncture, there’s only one way to describe the insertion of needles into your pets – it’s animal cruelty. It’s animal torture. It is not veterinary medicine.
If you want to believe that acupuncture works because you buy into the pseudoscience, go for it. Pay the charlatans pushing this nonsense because you trust in your beliefs rather than in science. It’s your choice.
But subjecting your pets to this travesty, who have no choice? Back to what I said before, it’s animal cruelty. Why would you do that to your favorite pet?
I know, people will get all upset. They’ll throw out anecdotes, like people do with chiropractic, or cherry pick poorly designed studies to “prove” that acupuncture works. They’ll try to convince everyone who will listen that it’s some sort of racism of Western based “mainstream” medicine that dismisses acupuncture. Because if it worked for your cousin’s daughter’s hairdresser’s uncle, it must be real medicine.
There are now thousands of acupuncture studies looking at every indication you can imagine (which stretches credulity that there is any common underlying mechanism). We are well past the time for preliminary studies. Despite thousands of studies, there isn’t a single indication for which real acupuncture has been shown to work to a high degree of confidence. At this point I would say that acupuncture should be abandoned as a scientific concept. It is a failed hypothesis that has added no real knowledge to our understanding of health and disease.
If, however, you are going to spend the resources to do an acupuncture study, make sure it is rigorous enough to add new information, and isn’t just another preliminary study to throw on the pile and get another round of misleading headlines about how “acupuncture” works. Of course a cynical person might suspect that this is the real goal of these studies.
Let’s start right from the beginning–there is no evidence that acupuncture has any significant clinical benefit for any condition. And because there is a small, but significant, risk associated with the acupuncture, the risk to benefit ratio is huge (if not infinity, since there is no benefit). There is simply no reason to accept, even a small risk, if there is no benefit to a procedure.
Clinical research can never prove that an intervention has an effect size of zero. Rather, clinical research assumes the null hypothesis, that the treatment does not work, and the burden of proof lies with demonstrating adequate evidence to reject the null hypothesis. So, when being technical, researchers will conclude that a negative study “fails to reject the null hypothesis.”
Further, negative studies do not demonstrate an effect size of zero, but rather that any possible effect is likely to be smaller than the power of existing research to detect. The greater the number and power of such studies, however, the closer this remaining possible effect size gets to zero. At some point the remaining possible effect becomes clinically insignificant.
Here we go again. The popular press rewrites a press release that overstates the result of a published paper. The press repeats the story everywhere. We now think that it’s the truth, but it hasn’t been proven in a clinical trial and the original published paper says nothing even close to what’s being written. And, it’s left to a couple of bloggers to walk back the exaggerations to the real scientific conclusions published in the real paper.
In a major breakthrough, an international team of scientists has proven that addiction to morphine and heroin can be blocked, while at the same time increasing pain relief.
The results — which could eventually lead to new co-formulated drugs that assist patients with severe pain, as well as helping heroin users to kick the habit — will be published August 16 in the Journal of Neuroscience.
“Our studies have shown conclusively that we can block addiction via the immune system of the brain, without targeting the brain’s wiring,” says the lead author of the study, Dr Mark Hutchinson, ARC Research Fellow in the University of Adelaide’s School of Medical Sciences.