CMS Looking at Acupuncture for Back Pain

By Ed Coghlan,

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is considering adding coverage of acupuncture for chronic low back pain. The notice states that HHS is focusing on providing more evidence-based non-drug treatment options for chronic pain in response to what agency calls “the opioid crisis” in the U.S.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published a systematic review of noninvasive, nonpharmacological treatment for chronic pain in June 2018. The review included assessment of several nonpharmacological interventions, including exercise, acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and multidisciplinary rehabilitation for CLBP. The National Institutes of Health recently issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement for interested parties to apply to conduct an efficient, large-scale pragmatic trial to evaluate the impact of, and strategies to best implement, acupuncture treatment of older adults (65 years and older) with chronic low back pain. The announcement can be found here.

CMS is opening this national coverage analysis (NCA) in order to review the evidence to determine if acupuncture for CLBP is reasonable and necessary under the Medicare program. The notice is available here.

Public comments are due February 14, 2019. CMS is particularly interested in comments that include scientific evidence and discuss appropriate clinicians and training requirements for providing acupuncture to improve health outcomes. For commenters recommending Coverage with Evidence Development (CED), CMS is interested in comments related to appropriate outcomes and study designs. Finally, CMS emphasizes that the scope of this review will be limited to acupuncture for chronic low back pain.

Acupuncture is an alternative therapy in which thin needles are inserted into the body, often to relieve pain. There are a diverse range of acupuncture theories based on different philosophies, and techniques vary depending on the country in which it is performed.

Leave a Comment