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Wednesday, July 8, 1998 Published at 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK


Have we been hoodwinked by acupuncture?

Acupuncture could be just a massive placebo, says Dr Webb

The British Medical Association is to carry out research to establish whether acupuncture has any scientific benefit.

Proposing the study at the BMA's annual conference in Cardiff, Dr Tim Webb, a consultant anaesthetist from Denbigh, said there was no doubt that acupuncture had been used successfully for centuries to treat a wide range of conditions.

But he said there was no proof that the acupuncture itself was responsible for an improvement in health. It might be that any effect produced was due to patients believing that the technique would cure them.

Massive placebo

Dr Webb said the technique was now being used more regularly in the NHS, but it was costly and its true benefits needed to be established.

"Is acupuncture really just a massive placebo? A placebo that is costing us a lot of time and money," Dr Webb asked.

"If acupuncture does half what is claimed for it then it is a valuable non toxic treatment, but if not we should not be wasting scarce NHS resources on it."

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