Note to our followers: Our nearly 13-year run of daily publication of new content on HealthNewsReview.org came to a close at the end of 2018. Publisher Gary Schwitzer and other contributors may post new articles periodically. But all of the 6,000+ articles we have published contain lessons to help you improve your critical thinking about health care interventions. And those will be still be alive on the site for a couple of years.
Read Original Story

Acupuncture May Ease Hot Flashes

Rating

1 Star

Categories

Acupuncture May Ease Hot Flashes

Our Review Summary

Shares many of the same fundamental flaws as its HealthDay competitor:

  • insufficient discussion of the limitations of the evidence in such a small, short-term study;
  • no one was quoted, so no independent expert evaluation of the evidence;
  • no true sense of the scope of potential benefit;
  • no hard data about benefits or harms.

 

Why This Matters

Women facing menopause deserve more details on a study than this – a story that is likely to draw eyeballs while delivering few of the details that women really need.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of cost.  10 weeks of acupuncture treatment – the course given in the study – ain’t chump change.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story told us that a five-point scale was used to measure the severity of symptoms.  That’s better than the HealthDay story did.  But only slightly better because the story never went on to tell us how much the scores dropped on that scale.  So the story didn’t give any sense of the scope of the benefit, using just vague, nonspecific language – “significantly lower scores.”

By saying “significantly lower” and never providing real numbers, the story leads readers to believe the evidence is definitive. Some readers may never even reach the bottom of the story. They will see the headline and the lead and assume that acupuncture may be right for them.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of potential harms – only of benefits.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story started in the right direction by ending: “Because the study was small, the researchers say more investigation is needed but….” – and here comes the unchallenged claim – “…that their results seem promising, suggesting traditional Chinese acupuncture could be an alternative for women who are unable or unwilling to use hormone replacement therapy in the pursuit of relief of menopausal symptoms.”

Among other things, the researchers admit they didn’t monitor long term relief.

Maybe if the story had turned to an independent expert, the story would have scrutinized the limitations of the evidence more closely.  But it didn’t.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease mongering.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

No one was quoted.  No independent expert evaluation.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of other research in this field, including lots on acupuncture.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

No discussion of the availability of acupuncture.  Picture a woman who’s just begun experiencing menopause and has never had any reason to think about acupuncture.  She reads this story about Turkish research on Chinese acupuncture.  Even if she’s interested, she is not given any clue about the availability of the approach in the U.S.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

No mention of any of the other research that has looked at acupuncture for menopausal symptoms.

Just last year a significant review of 106 previous papers on acupuncture and menopausal symptoms found exactly no benefit from the treatment.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Satisfactory

It does appear that the story relied solely on a news release.  Some of the language is nearly identical.

For example:

News release:

“They suggest that the explanation for the reduced severity of hot flushes might be that acupuncture boosts the production of endorphins, which may stabilise the body’s temperature controls.

The authors caution that their study was small and that they did not monitor how long symptom relief lasted, but they suggest that traditional Chinese acupuncture could be an alternative for those women unable or unwilling to use hormone replacement therapy to ease troublesome menopausal symptoms”

Story:

“The researchers say reduced severity of hot flashes may have occurred because acupuncture boosts production of endorphins, which may stabilize the temperature control system of the body.

Because the study was small, the researchers say more investigation is needed but that their results seem promising, suggesting traditional Chinese acupuncture could be an alternative for women who are unable or unwilling to use hormone replacement therapy in the pursuit of relief of menopausal symptoms.”

 

Total Score: 1 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.