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October 2021

J Altern Complement Med. 1997 Fall; 3(3): 257-66.

Strategies to maintain the credibility of sham acupuncture used as a control treatment in clinical trials.

Zaslawski C, Rogers C, Garvey M, Ryan D, Yang CX, Zhang SP.

College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Department of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Many clinical trials concerning acupuncture are flawed by methodological problems. One of the major difficulties is the appropriate selection and use of a placebo control. This article evaluates the use of sham acupuncture as a placebo control and analyzes its credibility as a control treatment. Sixty-four subjects were assessed for their perception of whether they were receiving sham or real acupuncture while participating in a clinical trial of acupuncture. It was found that if used under specific experimental conditions, sham acupuncture can function as a credible control. Specific strategies are suggested to maintain the credibility of sham acupuncture as a placebo control.


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