Bee venom (BV) acupuncture (BVA) involves injecting diluted BV into acupoints and is used for arthritis, pain, and rheumatoid diseases. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence for the effectiveness of BVA in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain. Seventeen electronic databases were systematically searched up to September 2007 with no language restrictions. All randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of BVA for patients with musculoskeletal pain were considered for inclusion if they included placebo controls or were controlled against a comparator intervention. Methodology quality was assessed and, where possible, statistical pooling of data was performed. A total of 626 possibly relevant articles were identified, of which 11 RCTs met our inclusion criteria. Four RCTs that tested the effects of BVA plus classic acupuncture compared with saline injection plus classic acupuncture were included in the main meta-analysis. Pain was significantly lower with BVA plus classic acupuncture than with saline injection plus classic acupuncture (weighted mean difference: 100-mm visual analog scale, 14.0 mm, 95% CI = 9.5-18.6, P < .001, n = 112; heterogeneity: tau(2) = 0, chi(2) = 1.92, P = .59, I(2) = 0%). Our results provide suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of BVA in treating musculoskeletal pain. However, the total number of RCTs included in the analysis and the total sample size were too small to draw definitive conclusions. Future RCTs should assess larger patient samples for longer treatment periods and include appropriate controls.
Perspective: Bee venom acupuncture involves injecting diluted BV into acupoints and is used for arthritis, pain, and rheumatoid diseases. A meta-analysis produced suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of BVA in musculoskeletal pain management. However, primary data were scarce. Future RCTs should assess larger patient samples for longer treatment periods and include appropriate controls.