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1.  A randomised multicentre trial of acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis – trial intervention including physician and treatment characteristics 
Background
In a large randomised trial in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR), acupuncture was superior compared to sham acupuncture and rescue medication. The aim of this paper is to describe the characteristics of the trial’s participating physicians and to describe the trial intervention in accordance with the STRICTA (Standards for Reporting Interventions in Controlled Trials of Acupuncture) guidelines, to make details of the trial intervention more transparent to researchers and physicians.
Methods
ACUSAR (ACUpuncture in Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis) was a three-armed, randomised, controlled multicentre trial. 422 SAR patients were randomised to semi-standardised acupuncture plus rescue medication (RM, cetirizine), sham acupuncture plus RM or RM alone. We sent a questionnaire to trial physicians in order to evaluate their characteristics regarding their education about and experience in providing acupuncture. During the trial, acupuncturists were asked to diagnose all of their patients according to Chinese Medicine (CM) as a basis for the semi-standardised, individualized intervention in the acupuncture group. Every acupuncture point used in this trial had to be documented after each session
Results
Acupuncture was administered in outpatient clinics by 46 (mean age 47 ± 10 years; 24 female/ 22 male) conventionally-trained medical doctors (67% with postgraduate specialization such as internal or family medicine) with additional extensive acupuncture training (median 500 hours (1st quartile 350, 3rd quartile 1000 hours with 73% presenting a B-diploma in acupuncture training (350 hours)) and experience (mean 14 years in practice). The most reported traditional CM diagnosis was ‘wind-cold invading the lung’ (37%) and ‘wind-heat invading the lung’ (37%), followed by ‘lung and spleen qi deficiency’ (9%). The total number of needles used was higher in the acupuncture group compared to the sham acupuncture group (15.7 ± 2.5 vs. 10.0 ± 1.6).
Conclusions
The trial interventions were provided by well educated and experienced acupuncturists. The different number of needles in both intervention groups could be possibly a reason for the better clinical effect in SAR patients. For future trials it might be more appropriate to ensure that acupuncture and sham acupuncture groups should each be treated by a similar number of needles.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00610584.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-128
PMCID: PMC3983860  PMID: 24708643
Acupuncture; Randomised controlled trial; Seasonal allergic rhinitis; Trial intervention; Sham acupuncture
2.  Influence of Control Group on Effect Size in Trials of Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: A Secondary Analysis of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93739.
Background
In a recent individual patient data meta-analysis, acupuncture was found to be superior to both sham and non-sham controls in patients with chronic pain. In this paper we identify variations in types of sham and non-sham controls used and analyze their impact on the effect size of acupuncture.
Methods
Based on literature searches of acupuncture trials involving patients with headache and migraine, osteoarthritis, and back, neck and shoulder pain, 29 trials met inclusion criteria, 20 involving sham controls (n = 5,230) and 18 non-sham controls (n = 14,597). For sham controls, we analysed non-needle sham, penetrating sham needles and non-penetrating sham needles. For non-sham controls, we analysed non-specified routine care and protocol-guided care. Using meta-regression we explored impact of choice of control on effect of acupuncture.
Findings
Acupuncture was significantly superior to all categories of control group. For trials that used penetrating needles for sham control, acupuncture had smaller effect sizes than for trials with non-penetrating sham or sham control without needles. The difference in effect size was −0.45 (95% C.I. −0.78, −0.12; p = 0.007), or −0.19 (95% C.I. −0.39, 0.01; p = 0.058) after exclusion of outlying studies showing very large effects of acupuncture. In trials with non-sham controls, larger effect sizes associated with acupuncture vs. non-specified routine care than vs. protocol-guided care. Although the difference in effect size was large (0.26), it was not significant with a wide confidence interval (95% C.I. −0.05, 0.57, p = 0.1).
Conclusion
Acupuncture is significantly superior to control irrespective of the subtype of control. While the choice of control should be driven by the study question, our findings can help inform study design in acupuncture, particularly with respect to sample size. Penetrating needles appear to have important physiologic activity. We recommend that this type of sham be avoided.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093739
PMCID: PMC3976298  PMID: 24705624
3.  The Use of Placebo and Non-Specific Therapies and Their Relation to Basic Professional Attitudes and the Use of Complementary Therapies among German Physicians – A Cross-Sectional Survey 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e92938.
We aimed to investigate the use of placebos (e.g. saline injections) and non-specific treatments (e.g. vitamin supplements in individuals without a relevant deficiency) among physicians working in private practices in Germany, and how such use is associated with the belief in and the use of complementary and alternative treatments, and basic professional attitudes. A four-page questionnaire was sent to nationwide random samples of general practitioners (GP), internists and orthopaedists working in private practices. The response rate was 46% (935 of 2018). 24% of GPs, 44% of internists and 57% of orthopaedists had neither used pure placebos nor non-specific therapies in the previous 12 months. 11% percent of GPs, 12% of internists and 7% of orthopaedists had exclusively used pure placebos; 30%, 33% and 26%, respectively, had exclusively used non-specific therapies; 35%, 12% and 9% had used both. Age, sex and agreement to the statement that physicians should harness placebo effects were not significantly associated with any pattern of use. Exclusive use of pure placebos was associated with being a GP, being an internist, and having unorthodox professional views. In addition to these three factors, a lower use of CAM therapies and a wish for having more time was associated with the exclusive use of non-specific therapies. Among physicians using both pure placebo and non-specific therapies, heterodox views were also somewhat more pronounced. However, associations were particularly strong for being a GP (Odds ratio 11.6 (95%CI 6.41; 21.3)) and having orthodox views (Odds ratio 0.10 (95%CI 0.06; 0.18)) among this group. In conclusion, the use of placebos and non-specific treatments varies strongly between medical specialties and is associated with basic professional attitudes. The findings support the view that the use of placebos and, in particular, of non-specific therapies is primarily a coping behaviour for difficult and uncertain situations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0092938
PMCID: PMC3973570  PMID: 24695272
4.  High prevalence but limited evidence in complementary and alternative medicine: guidelines for future research 
The use of complementary and alternative Medicine (CAM) has increased over the past two decades in Europe. Nonetheless, research investigating the evidence to support its use remains limited. The CAMbrella project funded by the European Commission aimed to develop a strategic research agenda starting by systematically evaluating the state of CAM in the EU. CAMbrella involved 9 work packages covering issues such as the definition of CAM; its legal status, provision and use in the EU; and a synthesis of international research perspectives. Based on the work package reports, we developed a strategic and methodologically robust research roadmap based on expert workshops, a systematic Delphi-based process and a final consensus conference. The CAMbrella project suggests six core areas for research to examine the potential contribution of CAM to the health care challenges faced by the EU. These areas include evaluating the prevalence of CAM use in Europe; the EU cititzens’ needs and attitudes regarding CAM; the safety of CAM; the comparative effectiveness of CAM; the effects of meaning and context on CAM outcomes; and different models for integrating CAM into existing health care systems. CAM research should use methods generally accepted in the evaluation of health services, including comparative effectiveness studies and mixed-methods designs. A research strategy is urgently needed, ideally led by a European CAM coordinating research office dedicated to fostering systematic communication between EU governments, the public, charitable and industry funders, researchers and other stakeholders. A European Centre for CAM should also be established to monitor and further a coordinated research strategy with sufficient funds to commission and promote high quality, independent research focusing on the public’s health needs and pan-European collaboration. There is a disparity between highly prevalent use of CAM in Europe and solid knowledge about it. A strategic approach on CAM research should be established to investigate the identified gaps of knowledge and to address upcoming health care challenges.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-46
PMCID: PMC3931324  PMID: 24499316
Complementary and alternative medicine; Research strategy; Randomized clinical trials; Safety; Qualitative studies; Comparative effectiveness research
5.  Can near-peer medical students effectively teach a new curriculum in physical examination? 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:165.
Background
Students in German medical schools frequently complain that the subject ‘clinical examination’ is not taught in a satisfying manner due to time constraints and lack of personnel resources. While the effectiveness and efficiency of practice-oriented teaching in small groups using near-peer teaching has been shown, it is rarely used in German medical schools. We investigated whether adding a new near-peer teaching course developed with student input plus patient examination under supervision in small groups improves basic clinical examination skills in third year medical students compared to a traditional clinical examination course alone.
Methods
Third year medical students registered for the mandatory curricular clinical examination course at the medical faculty of the Technische Universität München were invited to participate in a randomised trial with blinded outcome assessment. Students were randomised to the control group participating in the established curricular physical examination course or to the intervention group, which received additional near-peer teaching for the same content. The learning success was verified by a voluntary objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).
Results
A total of 84 students were randomised and 53 (63%) participated in the final OSCE. Students in the control group scored a median of 57% (25th percentile 47%, 75th percentile 61%) of the maximum possible total points of the OSCE compared to 77% (73%, 80%; p < 0.001) for students in the intervention group. Only two students in the intervention group received a lower score than the best student in the control group.
Conclusion
Adding a near-peer teaching course to the routine course significantly improved the clinical examination skills of medical students in an efficient manner in the context of a resource-constrained setting.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-165
PMCID: PMC3874636  PMID: 24325639
6.  Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis 
Archives of internal medicine  2012;172(19):1444-1453.
Background
Although acupuncture is widely used for chronic pain, there remains considerable controversy as to its value. We aimed to determine the effect size of acupuncture for four chronic pain conditions: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain.
Methods
We conducted a systematic review to identify randomized trials of acupuncture for chronic pain where allocation concealment was determined unambiguously to be adequate. Individual patient data meta-analyses were conducted using data from 29 of 31 eligible trials, with a total of 17,922 patients analyzed.
Results
In the primary analysis including all eligible trials, acupuncture was superior to both sham and no acupuncture control for each pain condition (all p<0.001). After exclusion of an outlying set of trials that strongly favored acupuncture, the effect sizes were similar across pain conditions. Patients receiving acupuncture had less pain, with scores 0.23 (95% C.I. 0.13, 0.33), 0.16 (95% C.I. 0.07, 0.25) and 0.15 (95% C.I. 0.07, 0.24) standard deviations lower than sham controls for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, and chronic headache respectively; the effect sizes in comparison to no acupuncture controls were 0.55 (95% C.I. 0.51, 0.58), 0.57 (95% C.I. 0.50, 0.64) and 0.42 (95% C.I. 0.37, 0.46). These results were robust to a variety of sensitivity analyses, including those related to publication bias.
Conclusions
Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain and is therefore a reasonable referral option. Significant differences between true and sham acupuncture indicate that acupuncture is more than a placebo. However, these differences are relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to the therapeutic effects of acupuncture.
doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654
PMCID: PMC3658605  PMID: 22965186
7.  Homeopathy for Depression: A Randomized, Partially Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Four-Armed Study (DEP-HOM) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74537.
Background
The specific clinical benefit of the homeopathic consultation and of homeopathic remedies in patients with depression has not yet been investigated.
Aims
To investigate the 1) specific effect of individualized homeopathic Q-potencies compared to placebo and 2) the effect of an extensive homeopathic case taking (case history I) compared to a shorter, rather conventional one (case history II) in the treatment of acute major depression (moderate episode) after six weeks.
Methods
A randomized, partially double-blind, placebo-controlled, four-armed trial using a 2×2 factorial design with a six-week study duration per patient was performed.
Results
A total of 44 from 228 planned patients were randomized (2∶1∶2∶1 randomization: 16 homeopathic Q-potencies/case history I, 7 placebo/case history I, 14 homeopathic Q-potencies/case history II, 7 placebo/case history II). Because of recruitment problems, the study was terminated prior to full recruitment, and was underpowered for the preplanned confirmatory hypothesis testing. Exploratory data analyses showed heterogeneous and inconclusive results with large variance in the sample. The mean difference for the Hamilton-D after 6 weeks was 2.0 (95%CI −1.2;5.2) for Q-potencies vs. placebo and −3.1 (−5.9;−0.2) for case history I vs. case history II. Overall, no consistent or clinically relevant results across all outcomes between homeopathic Q-potencies versus placebo and homeopathic versus conventional case taking were observed. The frequency of adverse events was comparable for all groups.
Conclusions
Although our results are inconclusive, given that recruitment into this trial was very difficult and we had to terminate early, we cannot recommend undertaking a further trial addressing this question in a similar setting.
Prof. Dr. Claudia Witt had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.
Trial registration
clinicaltrials.gov identifier NCT01178255.
Protocol publication: http://www.trialsjournal.com/content/12/1/43
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074537
PMCID: PMC3781106  PMID: 24086352
8.  Kidney function and clinical recommendations of drug dose adjustment in geriatric patients 
BMC Geriatrics  2013;13:92.
Background
In elderly patients chronic kidney disease often limits drug prescription. As several equations for quick assessment of kidney function by estimating glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and several different clinical recommendations for drug dose adjustment in renal failure are published, choosing the correct approach for drug dosage is difficult for the practitioner. The aims of our study were to quantify the agreement between eGFR-equations grouped by creatinine-based or cystatin C-based and within the groups of creatinine and cystatin C-based equations and to investigate whether use of various literature and online references results in different recommendations for drug dose adjustment in renal disease in very elderly primary care patients.
Methods
We included 108 primary care patients aged 80 years and older from 11 family practices into a cross-sectional study. GFR was estimated using two serum creatinine-based equations (Cockroft-Gault, MDRD) and three serum cystatin C-based equations (Grubb, Hoek, Perkins). Concordance between different equations was quantified using intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs). Essential changes in drug doses or discontinuation of medication were documented and compared in terms of estimated renal function as a consequence of the different eGFR-equations using five references commonly used in the US, Great Britain and Germany.
Results
In general, creatinine-based equations resulted in lower eGFR-estimation and in higher necessity of drug dose adjustment than cystatin C-based equations. Concordance was high between creatinine-based equations alone (ICCs 0.87) and between cystatin C-based equations alone (ICCs 0.90 to 0.96), and moderate between creatinine-based equations and cystatin C-based equations (ICCs 0.54 to 0.76). When comparing the five different references consulted to identify necessary drug dose adjustments we found that the numbers of drugs that necessitate dose adjustment in the case of renal impairment differed considerably. The mean number of recommended changes in drug dosage ranged between 1.9 and 2.5 per patient depending on the chosen literature reference.
Conclusions
Our data suggest that the choice of the literature source might have even greater impact on drug management than the choice of the equation used to estimate GFR alone. Efforts should be deployed to standardize methods for estimating kidney function in geriatric patients and literature recommendations on drug dose adjustment in renal failure.
doi:10.1186/1471-2318-13-92
PMCID: PMC3850264  PMID: 24020893
Estimated kidney function; Aged 80 years and older; Drug dose adjustment; Primary care; Literature references
9.  Effects of a general practice guided web-based weight reduction program - results of a cluster-randomized controlled trial 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:76.
Background
Preliminary findings suggest that web-based interventions may be effective in achieving significant weight loss and weight loss maintenance. To date only few findings within primary care patients and especially the involvement of general practitioners are available. The aim of this trial was to examine the short-term effectiveness of a web-based coaching program in combination with an accompanied telephone counselling regarding weight reduction in a primary care setting.
Methods
The study was a cluster-randomized trial with an observation period of 12 weeks. Individuals recruited by general practitioners randomized to the intervention group participated in a web-based coaching program based on education, motivation, exercise guidance, daily SMS reminding, weekly feedback through internet and active monitoring by general practitioners. Participants in the control group received usual care and advice from their practitioner without the web-based coaching program. The main outcome was weight change between admission and after 12 weeks.
Results
186 participants (109 intervention group, 77 control group) were recruited into study. For 76 participants from the intervention group and 72 participants from the control group weight measurements were available both at baseline and 12 weeks. Weight decreased on average by 4.2 kg in the intervention group and 1.7 kg in the control group (mean group difference 2.5 kg; 95%CI 1,1; 3,8; p < 0.001). Reductions for waist circumference and BMI were also significantly larger within intervention.
Conclusion
Findings of the present trial suggest that the tested web-based coaching program for weight loss is effective in short-term. Further RCT’s are desirable in order to confirm present findings in larger populations and to investigate long-term outcomes.
Trial registration
German Register for Clinical Trials: DRKS00003067
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-76
PMCID: PMC3680299  PMID: 23981507
Overweight; Obesity; Weight loss; Web-based; Randomized controlled trial
10.  Placebo interventions, placebo effects and clinical practice 
This article reviews the role of placebo interventions and placebo effects in clinical practice. We first describe the relevance of different perspectives among scientists, physicians and patients on what is considered a placebo intervention in clinical practice. We then summarize how placebo effects have been investigated in randomized controlled trials under the questionable premise that such effects are produced by placebo interventions. We further discuss why a shift of focus from the placebo intervention to the overall therapeutic context is necessary and what research methods can be used for the clinical investigation of the relevance of context effects. In the last part of the manuscript, we discuss why placebo or context effects are seen as positive in clinical practice when they are associated with active treatments, while placebo interventions pose major ethical and professional problems and have to be avoided.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2010.0383
PMCID: PMC3130396  PMID: 21576148
clinical practice; placebo; placebo effects; randomized controlled trials; ethics
11.  The development of general practice as an academic discipline in Germany - an analysis of research output between 2000 and 2010 
BMC Family Practice  2012;13:58.
Background
Governmental funding support is seen as a prerequisite for the growth of research in general practice. Several funding programs in the amount of € 13.2 Mio were introduced in Germany from 2002 to February 2012. We aim to provide an overview of publications reporting original data and systematic reviews from German academic family medicine published between 2000 and 2010.
Methods
Publications were identified by searching the database Scopus and screening publication lists of family medicine divisions or institutes. Papers had to report original primary research studies or systematic reviews; at least one of the authors had to be affiliated to a German academic family medicine division or institute.
Results
794 articles were included. The number of publications increased steadily starting from 107 in the period from 2000 to 2003, to 273 from 2004 to 2007, and finally to 414 from 2008 to 2010. Less than 25% were published in English in the first period. This proportion increased to 60.6% from 2008 to 2010. Articles published in a journal without impact factor decreased from 59.8% to 31.9%. Nevertheless, even in the most recent period only 31.6% of all articles were published in a journal with an impact factor above 2. The median impact factor increased from 0 in the first period to 1.2 in the last.
Conclusions
The output of original research publications from academic research divisions and institutes for general practice in Germany greatly increased during the last decade. However, professionalism of German primary care research still needs to be developed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-58
PMCID: PMC3489844  PMID: 22702476
Research articles; Germany; Primary care; General practice; Academic performance
12.  Frequency and circumstances of placebo use in clinical practice - a systematic review of empirical studies 
BMC Medicine  2010;8:15.
Background
The use of placebo interventions outside clinical trials is ethically, professionally and legally controversial. Little is known about the frequency and circumstances of placebo use in clinical practice. Our aim was to summarize the available empirical studies addressing these issues.
Methods
We searched PubMed and EMBASE from inception to July 2009 in order to identify cross-sectional surveys, qualitative or longitudinal studies among health care professionals, students or patients which investigated at least one of the following issues - frequency of placebo use or attitudes to, or motivations for, the use of placebo interventions. At least two reviewers extracted information on the study methods, participants and findings. Descriptive summaries were prepared in an iterative process by at least two reviewers per study.
Results
Twenty-two studies from 12 different countries met the inclusion criteria. Most studies had relevant shortcomings. The proportion of respondents reporting that they had applied 'pure' placebos (for example, saline injection) during their professional life varied between 17% and 80% among physicians and between 51% and 100% among nurses, but it seems that the actual frequency of such use seems to be rare. The use of 'impure' or 'active' placebos (for example, antibiotics for viral infections) is likely to be much more frequent. However, it is impossible to make a reliable estimation because there is no agreement of what an impure placebo might be. Studies using qualitative methods or asking participants to judge case examples suggest that motivations and attitudes towards placebo use are complex and health care providers are often faced with a dilemma.
Conclusions
Although the available evidence is incomplete and confusing at times there can be little doubt that the prevalence of placebo use outside of clinical trials is not negligible and that views and attitudes on placebos use differ considerably among individuals, both health care professionals and patients. Further research is needed to clarify these issues.
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-15
PMCID: PMC2837612  PMID: 20178561
13.  Acupuncture in patients with tension-type headache: randomised controlled trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2005;331(7513):376-382.
Objective To investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture compared with minimal acupuncture and with no acupuncture in patients with tension-type headache.
Design Three armed randomised controlled multicentre trial.
Setting 28 outpatient centres in Germany.
Participants 270 patients (74% women, mean age 43 (SD 13) years) with episodic or chronic tension-type headache.
Interventions Acupuncture, minimal acupuncture (superficial needling at non-acupuncture points), or waiting list control. Acupuncture and minimal acupuncture were administered by specialised physicians and consisted of 12 sessions per patient over eight weeks.
Main outcome measure Difference in numbers of days with headache between the four weeks before randomisation and weeks 9-12 after randomisation, as recorded by participants in headache diaries.
Results The number of days with headache decreased by 7.2 (SD 6.5) days in the acupuncture group compared with 6.6 (SD 6.0) days in the minimal acupuncture group and 1.5 (SD 3.7) days in the waiting list group (difference: acupuncture v minimal acupuncture, 0.6 days, 95% confidence interval -1.5 to 2.6 days, P = 0.58; acupuncture v waiting list, 5.7 days, 3.9 to 7.5 days, P < 0.001). The proportion of responders (at least 50% reduction in days with headache) was 46% in the acupuncture group, 35% in the minimal acupuncture group, and 4% in the waiting list group.
Conclusions The acupuncture intervention investigated in this trial was more effective than no treatment but not significantly more effective than minimal acupuncture for the treatment of tension-type headache.
Trial registration number ISRCTN9737659.
doi:10.1136/bmj.38512.405440.8F
PMCID: PMC1184247  PMID: 16055451
14.  How objective are systematic reviews? Differences between reviews on complementary medicine 
Systematic reviews are considered the most reliable tool to summarize existing evidence. To determine whether reviews that address the same questions can produce different answers we examined systematic reviews of herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture taken from a previously established database. Information on literature searching, inclusion criteria, selection process, quality assessment, data extraction, methods to summarize primary studies, number of included studies, results and conclusions was compared qualitatively.
Seventeen topics (eight on acupuncture, six on herbal medicines, three on homeopathy) had been addressed by 2-5 systematic reviews each. The number of primary studies in the reviews varied greatly within most topics. The most obvious reason for discrepancies between the samples was different inclusion criteria (in thirteen topics). Methods of literature searching may have contributed with some topics but the equivalence of the searches was difficult to assess. Differences were frequently observed in other methodological aspects, in results and in conclusions.
This analysis shows that, at least in the three areas examined, systematic reviews often differ considerably. Readers should be aware that apparently minor decisions in the review process can have major impact.
PMCID: PMC539366  PMID: 12519797
15.  Systematic reviews of complementary therapies – an annotated bibliography. Part 3: Homeopathy 
Background
Complementary therapies are widespread but controversial. We aim to provide a comprehensive collection and a summary of systematic reviews of clinical trials in three major complementary therapies (acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy). This article is dealing with homeopathy. Potentially relevant reviews were searched through the register of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field, the Cochrane Library, Medline, and bibliographies of articles and books. To be included articles had to review prospective clinical trials of homeopathy; had to describe review methods explicitly; had to be published; and had to focus on treatment effects. Information on conditions, interventions, methods, results and conclusions was extracted using a pretested form and summarized descriptively.
Results
Eighteen out of 22 potentially relevant reviews preselected in the screening process met the inclusion criteria. Six reviews addressed the question whether homeopathy is effective across conditions and interventions. The majority of available trials seem to report positive results but the evidence is not convincing. For isopathic nosodes for allergic conditions, oscillococcinum for influenza-like syndromes and galphimia for pollinosis the evidence is promising while in other areas reviewed the results are equivocal.
Interpretation
Reviews on homeopathy often address general questions. While the evidence is promising for some topics the findings of the available reviews are unlikely to end the controversy on this therapy.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-1-4
PMCID: PMC45586  PMID: 11527508
16.  Systematic reviews of complementary therapies – an annotated bibliography. Part 2: Herbal medicine 
Background
Complementary therapies are widespread but controversial. We aim to provide a comprehensive collection and a summary of systematic reviews of clinical trials in three major complementary therapies (acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy). This article is dealing with herbal medicine. Potentially relevant reviews were searched through the register of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field, the Cochrane Library, Medline, and bibliographies of articles and books. To be included articles had to review prospective clinical trials of herbal medicines; had to describe review methods explicitly; had to be published; and had to focus on treatment effects. Information on conditions, interventions, methods, results and conclusions was extracted using a pre-tested form and summarized descriptively.
Results
From a total of 79 potentially relevant reviews pre-selected in the screening process 58 met the inclusion criteria. Thirty of the reports reviewed ginkgo (for dementia, intermittent claudication, tinnitus, and macular degeneration), hypericum (for depression) or garlic preparations (for cardiovascular risk factors and lower limb atherosclerosis). The quality of primary studies was criticized in the majority of the reviews. Most reviews judged the available evidence as promising but definitive conclusions were rarely possible.
Conclusions
Systematic reviews are available on a broad range of herbal preparations prescribed for defined conditions. There is very little evidence on the effectiveness of herbalism as practised by specialist herbalists who combine herbs and use unconventional diagnosis.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-1-5
PMCID: PMC37540  PMID: 11518548
17.  Systematic reviews of complementary therapies - an annotated bibliography. Part 1: Acupuncture 
Background
Complementary therapies are widespread but controversial. We aim to provide a comprehensive collection and a summary of systematic reviews of clinical trials in three major complementary therapies (acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy). This article is dealing with acupuncture. Potentially relevant reviews were searched through the register of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field, the Cochrane Library, Medline, and bibliographies of articles and books. To be included articles had to review prospective clinical trials of acupuncture; had to describe review methods explicitly; had to be published; and had to focus on treatment effects. Information on conditions, interventions, methods, results and conclusions was extracted using a pretested form and summarized descriptively.
Results
From a total of 48 potentially relevant reviews preselected in a screeening process 39 met the inclusion criteria. 22 were on various pain syndromes or rheumatic diseases. Other topics addressed by more than one review were addiction, nausea, asthma and tinnitus. Almost unanimously the reviews state that acupuncture trials include too few patients. Often included trials are heterogeneous regarding patients, interventions and outcome measures, are considered to have insufficient quality and contradictory results. Convincing evidence is available only for postoperative nausea, for which acupuncture appears to be of benefit, and smoking cessation, where acupuncture is no more effective than sham acupuncture.
Conclusions
A large number of systematic reviews on acupuncture exists. What is most obvious from these reviews is the need for (the funding of) well-designed, larger clinical trials.
doi:10.1186/1472-6882-1-3
PMCID: PMC37539  PMID: 11513758

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