The really new thing in the Madsen paper is that although acupuncture still beats no acupuncture, the advantage is too small to be much use to patients. So it may be a theatrical placebo, but the placebo effect isn’t big enough to matter in real life.
If this conclusion is confirmed by others, then acupuncture is dead. You can’t even make the (morally-dubious) argument that it’s a good placebo."
Remember, this particular study relates to the very nebulous, variable and personal concept of pain- a realm fraught with confounding factors. Many studies regarding acupuncture effects deal with these rather subjective areas because that's pretty much what is left as the search for bigger effects has proven fruitless. If it is this hard to tease out any real acupuncture effect here from the a back ground noise of probability, acupuncture -as a legitimate medical modality- has a big, big problem.