The credibility of placebo controls in acupuncture studies
Review articleOpen access

SummaryObjective: Credible placebo/controls are an essential element of randomized, controlled trials of acupuncture. This study evaluates the credibility of real acupuncture, sham acupuncture and mock TENS as treatments for vasomotor rhinitis.Setting:Twenty one patients with vasomotor rhinitis were entered from the Department of Medicine, Southampton University Medical School.Design:Each patient received each of these three treatments (real acupuncture, sham acupuncture and mock TENS) in random order and the credibility of these interventions was assessed utilising previously validated questionnaires.Outcome:Sham acupuncture and mock TENS appeared to be equivalently credible as placebo/controls. After completion of all three treatments, real acupuncture was more likely to be ‘recommended to a friend’.Conclusion:This is a small pilot study which suggests that both sham acupuncture and mock TENS are equally credible placebo/controls.

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