Comparison of Real and Placebo Acupuncture in Histamine-Induced Asthma: DiscussionThis method of studying the effect of a controversial modality of treatment, such as acupuncture, has significant advantages over clinical studies. In the latter, varying environmental conditions may influence the severity of bronchial asthma and thereby, influence the results to some extent. At the same time, this method has the disadvantage that it investigates only the bronchial smooth muscle reactivity to a chemical mediator without studying the part played by neural reflex or inflammatory changes in bronchial mucosa. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, acute acupuncture therapy as given in this study, is unlikely to help in the management of acute asthma because it does not attenuate bronchial smooth muscle reactivity. This failure to attenuate bronchial hyperreactivity to histamine following acupuncture was not due to any change in the basal lung function because the basal lung functions on the three study days were not significantly different. more

This study was conducted strictly according to double-blind principles because both the patients and observer were unaware of the nature of treatment given by the acupuncturist on the two study days according to predetermined randomization protocol. Failure of acupuncture to attenuate severity of bronchial asthma in this study is at variance with results of previous similarly conducted studies. The acupuncture loci used in this study were those used for protection against acute asthma as recommended by the theory of traditional Chinese medicine which is said to be a prerequisite for optimum protection. In clinical practice, acupuncture is given prophylactically long-term for a number of treatments or short-term by a single treatment for management of acute asthma. Our study was done to find if prior treatment with acupuncture, as used for acute asthma, would attenuate bronchial hyperreactivity to histamine and thereby improve the underlying asthmatic state. The failure of real and placebo acupuncture to attenuate bronchial hyperreactivity to histamine in this study suggests that a single treatment as used in this study is unlikely to be of any clinical benefit in this type of management of acute asthma.