Intended for healthcare professionals

Acupuncture: How to improve the evidence base

Given the broad clinical application and rapid increase in funding support for acupuncture research, researchers now have additional opportunities to produce high-quality studies. However, for this to be successful, acupuncture research must address both methodological limitations and unique research challenges.

This collection of articles analyses the progress of developing high quality research studies on acupuncture, summarises the current status, and provides critical methodological guidance regarding the production of clinical evidence on randomised controlled trials, clinical practice guidelines and health economic evidence. It also assesses the number and quality of systematic reviews of acupuncture. We hope that these articles will help inform the development of clinical practice guidelines, health policy, and reimbursement decisions.


Improving acupuncture research: progress, guidance, and future directions
Yu-Qing Zhang, Xianghong Jing and Gordon Guyatt discuss the recent progress of acupuncture research and opportunities for the future


Methodological challenges in design and conduct of randomised controlled trials in acupuncture
Yu-Tong Fei and colleagues examine the problems with designing and implementing trials of acupuncture

Using economic evaluations to support acupuncture reimbursement decisions: current evidence and gaps
Hongchao Li and colleagues explore the global challenges of including economic evaluations in decisions about reimbursement for acupuncture

Evidence on acupuncture therapies is underused in clinical practice and health policy
Nenggui Xu and colleagues call for more effective evidence dissemination of and research into promising acupuncture therapies

Increasing the usefulness of acupuncture guideline recommendations
Yu-Qing Zhang and colleagues examine the progress and pitfalls in guideline recommendations for acupuncture and provide suggestions for improvement

Research methods and reporting

How to design high quality acupuncture trials—a consensus informed by evidence
Yu-Qing Zhang and colleagues have developed new guidance for randomised controlled trials in acupuncture

BMJ Open research

Characteristics and quality of clinical practice guidelines addressing acupuncture interventions: a systematic survey of 133 guidelines and 433 acupuncture recommendations
Xiaorong Tang and colleagues take a close look at acupuncture-related Clinical Practice Guidelines, assessing their clinical and methodological quality

Evidence mapping and overview of systematic reviews of the effects of acupuncture therapies
Liming Lu and colleagues assess acupuncture evidence maps and systematic reviews in order to identify therapies that require further investigation evidence dissemination

Factors Associated with the Magnitude Of acUpuncture treatment effectS (FAMOUS): a meta-epidemiological study of acupuncture randomised controlled trials
Wei-Juan Gang and colleagues identify and assess factors that impact the magnitude of the treatment effect of acupuncture therapies across different therapeutic areas

Funding for this collection, including open access fees, was provided by the special-purpose funds for the belt and road, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the Innovation Team and Talents Cultivation Program of the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Special Project of “Lingnan Modernization of Traditional Chinese Medicine” of the 2019 Guangdong Key Research and Development Program, and the Project of First Class Universities and High-level Dual Discipline for Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine.

The BMJ commissioned, peer reviewed, edited, and made the decision to publish these articles. Yu-Qing Zhang advised on commissioning for the collection, designed the topic of this series and coordinated the author teams. Gordon Guyatt provided valuable advice and guidance on the series. Kamran Abbasi was the lead editor for The BMJ.

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