A randomised feasibility and pilot study in the UK
Objectives To explore feasibility of a randomised study using standardised or individualised multiherb Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) for oligomenorrhoea and amenorrhoea in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), to pilot study methods and to obtain clinical data to support sample size calculations.
Design Prospective, pragmatic, randomised feasibility and pilot study with participant and practitioner blinding.
Setting 2 private herbal practices in the UK.
Participants 40 women diagnosed with PCOS and oligomenorrhoea or amenorrhoea following Rotterdam criteria.
Intervention 6 months of either standardised CHM or individualised CHM, 16 g daily taken orally as a tea.
Main outcome measures Our primary objective was to determine whether oligomenorrhoea and amenorrhoea were appropriate as the primary outcome measures for the main study. Estimates of treatment effects were obtained for menstrual rate, body mass index (BMI), weight and hirsutism. Data were collected regarding safety, feasibility and acceptability.
Results Of the 40 participants recruited, 29 (72.5%) completed the study. The most frequently cited symptoms of concern were hirsutism, weight and menstrual irregularity. Statistically significant improvements in menstrual rates were found at 6 months within group for both standardised CHM (mean difference (MD) 0.18±0.06, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.29; p=0.0027) and individualised CHM (MD 0.27±0.06, 95% CI 0.15 to 0.39; p<0.001), though not between group (p=0.26). No improvements were observed for BMI nor for weight in either group. Improvements in hirsutism scores found within group for both groups were not statistically significant between group (p=0.09). Liver and kidney function and adverse events data were largely normal. Participant feedback suggests changing to tablet administration could facilitate adherence.
Conclusions A CHM randomised controlled trial for PCOS is feasible and preliminary data suggest that both individualised and standardised multiherb CHMs have similar safety profiles and clinical effects on promoting menstrual regularity. These data will inform the design of a study in primary care that will incorporate an appropriate control.
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