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Flash: No Needles. Acupuncture No Better Than Placebo for Hot Flashes


5 Star

Flash: No Needles. Acupuncture No Better Than Placebo for Hot Flashes

Our Review Summary

This is a well-balanced and thorough report on the first randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes. It clearly describes the problem, the study, and its results. The writer provides useful context for understanding the scope of the problem and why researchers are interested in finding alternatives to the most commonly used hot flash treatment, hormone therapy.

By providing detail about how the study was done and by explaining that hot flashes often get better even with inactive (or placebo) treatments, the story helps readers understand the finding that acupuncture was no better than a sham treatment. Many women reportedly use some type of complementary or alternative therapy to try to control hot flashes. This article wraps these new data about acupuncture neatly around a well-written story about why some of them might get relief and others not.

Given the story’s overall quality, the lack of information on costs is a relatively minor flaw.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not include any information on the cost of acupuncture or on whether insurers cover this for any indications.

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


The story notes how many women in the acupuncture and sham treatment groups were still having hot flashes at the end of the active treatment part of the trial.

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


The story states that women in the study reported no adverse effects.

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


The story clearly describes how the study was done, and how researchers attempted to ensure that women did not know whether they were getting the ‘real’ treatment or the placebo.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The article does a commendable, well-balanced job of explaining that hot flashes can vary widely in both how severe and how bothersome they are.

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


Article cites an author of the study, another expert, and a National Institutes of Health consensus document.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


Other options for dealing with menopausal hot flashes are reviewed, along with their shortcomings. However, this section was brief and could have discussed many other options which have known benefit.

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


The story notes that acupuncture is used worldwide.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


Article notes that acupuncture has been used for more than 2,000 years.

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


There is no evidence that this story relied on a news release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory


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