Professor Edzard Ernst's blog "Problems with Chinese acupuncture trials" mentioned:
Most of the studies were in Chinese, and I therefore have to trust the review-authors’ data extraction. They tell us that most trials were of very poor quality.
Not reporting adverse effects in clinical trials is a serious violation of research ethics, particularly as severe adverse effects and even deaths after acupuncture are well-documented.
Unlike Western medicine that typically treats symptoms through medication or surgery with applied knowledge of science and technology, TCM is not evidence-based, but rooted in traditions of more than 2,000 years. There is also a strong cultural component, including many ideas about the universe and human body that Chinese people take for granted, such as the five elements (water, earth, wood, fire, metal). It is difficult to explain these metaphysical ideas in the wider international community that relies heavily on Western medicine and the scientific method.
Is Chinese acupuncture research really poor quality? What's real picture about Chinese acupuncture research?
Modern and scientific TCM evaluation system is still imperfect. In the current quality control assurance system established with medicinal materials as the core, the lack of TCM resources, limit of raw material prices and other factors lead to the mismatches between the TCM clinical needs and industrial products.Meanwhile, the lack of information sharing platforms among the central and municipal scientific research institutes has restricted the conversion of scientific and technological achievements. These factors have directly influenced the output value, revenue and profit growth of the TCM industry in Beijing.
Recently, the volume of applied research in Chinese medicine is growing rapidly and the quality is improving.There is good evidence supporting the use of some Chinese patent medicine treatments.Researchers are starting to emphasize the importance of clinical trials. Many experts including clinicians, pharmacologists, statisticians and epidemiologists are discussing and formulating clinical trial protocols for TCM.And quality control is being emphasized for the process of trials more than before.
Chinese medicine is indeed different from western medicine, while TCM is an individual therapeutic method for diseases or conditions. There should be a balance between what is ideal and what is feasible.Sham acupuncture as a control method is still immature, which is not appropriate to be taken as a standard model for acupuncture research. If the research method which takes modern medicine as the control method in Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion can be promoted, and the most effective and the most advanced methods and results which are general accepted can be taken as the control, the differences and the advantages of acupuncture-moxibustion can be discovered directly with greater value.
But, the scientist still believe something like this: "In fact there have been several thousand acupuncture studies over decades. After all of this clinical research, acupuncture has not been clearly demonstrated to be effective for any indication. In short, acupuncture does not work. It is too late to talk about acupuncture’s “potential,” as if we just need to study it more. It has been studied. It doesn’t work.Proponents, however, will continue to publish poorly conducted studies where biases and degrees of freedom can generate positive results, and more rigorous studies with negative results that they will promote none-the-less as if they were positive.For acupuncture true believers, acupuncture research is a “heads I win, tales I win” situation."