This study aimed to compare the efficacy of acupuncture to that of sham acupuncture, placebo pills, and nonhormonal drugs to provide the necessary quantitative information for establishing medication guidelines for menopausal hot flashes.
A comprehensive literature search was performed using public databases. Randomized clinical studies on acupuncture therapy for the treatment of hot flashes in menopausal women were identified. A time-course model was established to describe the efficacy characteristics of acupuncture and sham acupuncture, which were compared with the efficacy of nonhormonal drugs and placebo pills reported in the literature.
A total of 17 studies involving 1,123 participants were included. The quality of all the studies included in the analysis is medium to high, and there was no obvious risk of bias. It was found that the baseline number of hot flashes was an important factor affecting the efficacy of acupuncture and sham acupuncture. After correcting the baseline to eight hot flashes per day, the frequency of hot flashes decreased from baseline for traditional acupuncture (TA), electro-acupuncture (EA), TA&EA (merger analysis of TA and electro-acupuncture), and sham acupuncture were 3.1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.8-3.4), 3.6 (95% CI: 3.2-4.0), 3.2 (95% CI: 2.9-3.5), and 2.6 (95% CI: 2.2-3.0) times/d at week 8, respectively. Compared with findings reported in the literature, we found the efficacy of electro-acupuncture was comparable to that of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors/serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and neuroleptic agents such as gabapentin and escitalopram. Furthermore, the efficacy of TA&EA (merged) was significantly higher than that of placebo pills (2.3, 95% CI: 1.8-2.9).
The efficacy of TA&EA (merged) was higher than that of sham acupuncture and significantly higher than that of placebo pills. The efficacy of electro-acupuncture was higher than that of traditional acupuncture, significantly higher than that of sham acupuncture, and comparable to that of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors/serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors and neuroleptic agents.