Background: Although the available evidence is insufficient, acupuncture is used in patients suffering from chronic asthma. The aim of this pragmatic study was to investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture in addition to routine care in patients with allergic asthma compared to treatment with routine care alone.
Methods: Patients with allergic asthma were included in a randomized controlled trial and randomized to receive up to 15 acupuncture sessions over 3 months or to a control group receiving routine care alone. Patients who did not consent to randomization received acupuncture treatment for the first 3 months and were followed as a cohort. All trial patients were allowed to receive routine care in addition to study treatment. The primary endpoint was the asthma quality of life questionnaire (AQLQ, range: 1-7) at 3 months. Secondary endpoints included general health related to quality of life (Short-Form-36, SF-36, range 0-100). Outcome parameters were assessed at baseline and at 3 and 6 months.
Results: A total of 1,445 patients (mean age 43.8 [SD 13.5] years, 58.7% female) were randomized and included in the analysis (184 patients randomized to acupuncture and 173 to control, and 1,088 in the nonrandomized acupuncture group). In the randomized part, acupuncture was associated with an improvement in the AQLQ score compared to the control group (difference acupuncture vs. control group 0.7 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.5-1.0]) as well as in the physical component scale and the mental component scale of the SF-36 (physical: 2.5 [1.0-4.0]; mental 4.0 [2.1-6.0]) after 3 months. Treatment success was maintained throughout 6 months. Patients not consenting to randomization showed similar improvements as the randomized acupuncture group.
Conclusions: In patients with allergic asthma, additional acupuncture treatment to routine care was associated with increased disease-specific and health-related quality of life compared to treatment with routine care alone.
Keywords: acupuncture; allergic asthma; comparative effectiveness research; complementary medicine; pragmatic trial; randomized controlled trial; routine care.