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Acupuncture ‘not cost-effective for IBS’

There is little evidence to support the use of acupuncture for irritable bowel syndrome on the NHS, although it may be cost-effective for patients with severe IBS, say UK researchers.

Their probability analysis found that, at a value of £30,000 per QALY gained, acupuncture had a 40% chance of being cost-effective for patients with IBS.

The study looked at 233 patients recruited from primary care in England. Over 110 were randomised to receive acupuncture alongside usual GP care, 117 received usual GP care alone. All patients were followed for one year post-randomisation.

They found acupuncture demonstrated a cost effectiveness ratio of £62,429 per QALY gained using information on both IBS and non-IBS costs to the NHS.

When looking at subgroups of IBS patients, they discovered a cost-effectiveness ratio of £6,377 per QALY gained in patients with severe IBS. The probability that acupuncture is cost-effective in his group was 60%, based on a threshold of £30,000 per QALY.

The researchers from the University of York, said: ‘This trial does not support the use of acupuncture for IBS patients as an appropriate use of NHS resources.’

Gastroenterology 2012, available online 24 October 2012