Evidence from JAMA: Acupuncture effective to treat aromatase inhibitor-related arthralgias in early-stage breast cancer patients

A multiple center randomized clinical trial conducted at 11 academic centers and clinical sites in the United States from March 2012 to February 2017 (final date of follow-up, September 5, 2017) ​1​ showed that among postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer and aromatase inhibitor-related arthralgias, acupuncture  resulted in a statistically significant reduction in joint pain at 6 weeks, although the observed improvement was of uncertain clinical importance.  Eligible patients were postmenopausal women with early-stage breast cancer who were taking an aromatase inhibitor and scored at least 3 on the Brief Pain Inventory Worst Pain (BPI-WP) item (score range, 0-10; higher scores indicate greater pain). Patients were randomized 2:1:1 to the true acupuncture (n = 110), sham acupuncture (n = 59), or waitlist control (n = 57) group. True acupuncture and sham acupuncture protocols consisted of 12 acupuncture sessions over 6 weeks (2 sessions per week), followed by 1 session per week for 6 weeks. The waitlist control group did not receive any intervention. All participants were offered 10 acupuncture sessions to be used between weeks 24 and 52. The primary end point was the 6-week BPI-WP score. Mean 6-week BPI-WP scores were compared by study group using linear regression, adjusted for baseline pain and stratification factors (clinically meaningful difference specified as 2 points). Briefly, both true acupuncture and sham acupuncture consisted of twelve 30- to 45- minute sessions administered over a period of 6 weeks (2 per week) followed by 1 session per week for 6 weeks. For true acupuncture, stainless steel, single-use, sterile and disposable needles were used and inserted at traditional depths and angles. The joint-specific protocol was tailored to as many as 3 of the patient’s most painful joint areas. Needles were restimulated manually once during each session.

  1. 1.
    Hershman DL, Unger JM, Greenlee H, et al. Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture or Waitlist Control on Joint Pain Related to Aromatase Inhibitors Among Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer. JAMA. July 2018:167. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.8907

10th September 2019

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