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expert reaction to research claiming acupuncture could reduce risk of stroke associated with rheumatoid arthritis

A study published in BMJ Open looks at the effect of acupuncture on stroke patients with rheumatoid arthritis.


Prof Edzar Ernst, Emeritus Professor of Complementary Medicine, University of Exeter, said:

“The authors of this study draw very definitive conclusions, such as ‘acupuncture therapy is beneficial for ischaemic stroke prevention’.  But as any science student knows, correlation is not the same as causation.

“All the study really shows is an association between acupuncture and stroke.  That could be due to dozens of factors that the ‘propensity score matching’ could not control – for example, genetics, or exercise levels, or even advice about lifestyle received from the acupuncturists themselves.

“To conclude that the results prove a cause-effect relationship is naive in the extreme – this study simply does not show that.  I find it disappointing that this research can pass the peer-review process of a BMJ journal.”



‘Effect of acupuncture on ischaemic stroke in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a nationwide propensity scorematched study’ by Chia-Yu Huang et al. was published in BMJ Open at 23.30 UK time on Tuesday 13 February 2024.


DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-075218



Declared interests

Prof Edzard Ernst: I have no conflicts of interest


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