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Acupuncture Cost Effectiveness for Pain Conditions; Improves Cancer Survival

The Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC) publishes the findings from numerous peer reviewed scientific model studies proving the efficacy of integrative healthcare. Below is the text from page 10 of one of their publications. Click on the link below to see this information on the IHPC website.


Acupuncture is a centuries-old modality that stimulates meridian points on the body through the use of very thin needles. Long derided in the West, acupuncture is gaining acceptance as respected researchers demonstrate its effectiveness for pain and other health conditions. The cost of acupuncture is relatively low when compared with that of conventional medicine. The numerous diagnostic tests, branded pharmaceuticals, and surgical and non-surgical procedures involved in modern conventional medicine are costly. In contrast, the cost of acupuncture diagnostics and treatment supplies is relatively low.

Perhaps the clearest example of cost-effectiveness-driven health care policy decisions at a national level comes from a series of studies performed in Germany.57 These large clinical trials not only demonstrated the health benefit of acupuncture to patients in various disease states, but also proved to be a good return on investment. As a result, in April 2006, Germany’s social health insurance funds began offering normal reimbursement for acupuncture treatment of chronic low back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee. An increasing number of U.S. insurers cover acupuncture for pain conditions, but Medicare does not. This lack of Medicare coverage causes our older population, overrepresented with conditions that cause pain, to default to more expensive and invasive medical solutions.

Acupuncture also may play an important role in helping patients with pain avoid more expensive, higher risk interventions. A 2012 British study found that one-third of total knee replacement candidates who received acupuncture instead of conventional treatment experienced long-term pain relief and were able to avoid surgery two years later, at a cost savings of $8,100 per patient. In the U.S., where 719,000 knee replacement surgeries were performed in 2010, the savings could total $1.9 billion.58Perhaps even more remarkable than studies demonstrating acupuncture’s improvement of chronic pain at a low cost are the increased survival rates of cancer patients treated with traditional Asian medicine. When the entire system of traditional Asian medicine is used, including herbs, nutrition, and traditional practices such as moxa or cupping, the results are astounding. In a series of research studies of different types of cancer, researchers in San Francisco demonstrated dramatically superior survival rates in cancer patients at any stage. The five-year data pattern at right demonstrates the differences in survival rates. The slope of the lines decline as patients die of cancer over time – a flatter slope shows higher survival. After the first year of acupuncture and Asian holistic treatment, 100% of patients were still alive, compared to only 40-95% (depending on the stage) of patients receiving only conventional care. Patients receiving integrative treatment showed a 60%-82% survival rate at five years compared with a 7%-8% survival rate of patients receiving conventional care alone.

The efficacy of acupuncture and traditional Asian medicine for pain, cancer, and many other health conditions is proven. Forward-thinking American health care and insurance systems will support and incentivize visits to acupuncturists because they treat effectively and are cost-effective.