A landmark study funded by the National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Institute of Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) of the National Institutes
of Health was the longest and largest randomized, controlled phase III
clinical trial of acupuncture ever conducted. The multi-site study team,
including rheumatologists and licensed acupuncturists, enrolled 570
patients, aged 50 or older with osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients
were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments: acupuncture,
sham acupuncture, or an education control group. Patients continued
to receive standard medical care from their primary physicians, including
anti-inflammatory medications, such as COX-2 selective inhibitors, non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs, and opioid pain relievers. Patients' progress
was assessed at 4, 8, 14, and 26 weeks. By week 8, participants receiving
acupuncture were showing a significant increase in function and by week
14 a significant decrease in pain, compared with the sham and control
groups. These results held through the entire 26 week study period.
Overall, those who received acupuncture had a 40 percent decrease in
pain and a nearly 40 percent improvement in function compared to baseline
assessments. Berman BM, Lao L, Langenberg P, et al. “Effectiveness
of Acupuncture as Adjunctive Therapy in Osteoarthritis of the Knee:
A Randomized, Controlled Trial.” Annals of Internal Medicine.
141(12): 901-910, Dec. 2004.