Background: Acupuncture is widely used in patients with allergic rhinitis, but the available evidence of its effectiveness is insufficient.
Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture in addition to routine care in patients with allergic rhinitis compared with treatment with routine care alone.
Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, patients with allergic rhinitis were randomly allocated to receive up to 15 acupuncture sessions during a period of 3 months or to a control group receiving no acupuncture. Patients who did not consent to random assignment received acupuncture treatment. All patients were allowed to receive usual medical care. The Rhinitis Quality of Life Questionnaire (RQLQ) and general health-related quality of life (36-Item Short-Form Health Survey) were evaluated at baseline and after 3 and 6 months.
Results: Of 5,237 patients (mean [SD] age, 40  years; 62% women), 487 were randomly assigned to acupuncture and 494 to control, and 4,256 were included in the nonrandomized acupuncture group. At 3 months, the RQLQ improved by a mean (SE) of 1.48 (0.06) in the acupuncture group and by 0.50 (0.06) in the control group (3-month scores, 1.44 [0.06] and 2.42 [0.06], respectively; difference in improvement, 0.98 [0.08]; P < .001). Similarly, quality-of-life improvements were more pronounced in the acupuncture vs the control group (P < .001). Six-month improvements in both acupuncture groups were lower than they had been at 3 months.
Conclusions: The results of this trial suggest that treating patients with allergic rhinitis in routine care with additional acupuncture leads to clinically relevant and persistent benefits. In addition, it seems that physician characteristics play a minor role in the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment, although this idea needs further investigation.