SAR Global Ambassador: Beltán Carrillo, MD - SPAIN
This month, we were honored to speak with Beltrán Carrillo, a medical doctor (Univeridad Complutense, Madrid) and specialist in geriatric medicine. Dr. Carrillo is also an acupuncturist and president of the Spanish Medical Acupuncture Society (SAME). He lives in Madrid, Spain.
What is the state of acupuncture in Spain today?
The situation of acupuncture in Spain has changed dramatically in the last year. Until 2018, the only regulation for the practice of acupuncture was under the state law of Health Centers, where it was established that a medical doctor had to be responsible for the treatment at Health Centers where acupuncture was practiced. Education and training for doctors and other health workers were provided by regulated university masters. There are also numerous private unregulated centers where anyone can take acupuncture courses.
On November 2018, influenced by recognized pseudo-skeptic groups, the government of Spain initiated a plan to fight against “pseudotherapies,” explicitly including acupuncture together with up to 138 other natural therapies. Their intention was to publish a future law banning the use of any pseudotherapy in public and private health centers. They initiated a process of studying the degree of scientific evidence (basically systematic reviews and meta-analysis) published in each area. They conducted an exploratory study of publications between 2012 and 2018 and distinguished acupuncture as one of 66 therapies that had high level published studies. The state agency is now considering the study results; they will only evaluate acupuncture for "chronic skeletal muscle pain" due to the large number of publications and conditions that exist in the acupuncture field. The results of this global review, expected in the first half of this year, are expected to be favorable, and to clearly define acupuncture as a conventional therapy.
Tell us about your work in acupuncture research.
Due to the defense of acupuncture that we have had to carry out in this last year, I have devoted a great deal of my research time to secondary analysis of systematic reviews and meta-analysis. It is an exciting world with a large number of publications that is growing exponentially. One of the deficiencies that I find in acupuncture studies is the quality issue. Although this is not very different from publications in conventional medicine, it is used as an argument to discredit acupuncture. When designing studies, I recommend that authors conduct an in depth analysis on aspects related to quality, not only using recognized checklists (STRICT, PRISMA-A), but also analyzing the quality measurement tools that will be used by the overviewers, and ensuring that they are met. This way, the study is not penalized for aspects that are easy to fulfill for most studies and authors in subsequent quality evaluation.