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BMJ acupuncture collection launches

BMJ acupuncture collection launches

Clinical trials and guidelines must adopt best practices globally to realise potential benefits of acupuncture, argue experts in a major new BMJ collection

Today, BMJ is launching the first tranche of a special collection of articles documenting the progress of acupuncture research. The collection argues that acupuncture can play a role in improving patient care, but clinical trials, clinical practice guidelines, and economic evaluations of acupuncture therapies must follow best practices to maximise benefits over harms. 

The articles consist of five published in The BMJ and one in BMJ Open, written by leading international experts. They outline why national, regional, and international organisations and health systems should facilitate this process and support rigorous acupuncture research. 

There will be a dedicated launch of the collection in Beijing this Sunday, 27 February, called The BMJ Acupuncture Collection Papers and Symposium on Improving Acupuncture Research: Progress, Guidance and Future Directions. The collection was led by experts from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences and McMaster University.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2019 global report, acupuncture is widely used across the globe. In some countries, acupuncture is covered by health insurance and established regulations. In the US, practitioners administer over 10 million acupuncture treatments annually. In the UK, clinicians administer over 4 million acupuncture treatments annually, provided on the NHS. 

Given the widespread use of acupuncture as a complementary therapy alongside conventional medicine, there has been an increase in global research interest and funding support over recent decades. Furthermore, the broad clinical application and rapid growth in funding support for acupuncture research mean researchers now have additional opportunities to produce high-quality studies. 

In the introductory paper, Improving acupuncture research: progress, guidance, and future directions, the authors argue: "Conventional allopathic medicine—medications and surgery used in conventional systems of medicine to treat or prevent disease—is often expensive, can cause side effects and harm, and is not always the optimal treatment for long term conditions such as chronic pain. Where conventional treatments have not been successful, acupuncture and other traditional and complementary medicines have the potential to play a role in optimal patient care."

Kamran Abbasi, The BMJ’s Editor in Chief added: “This collection of papers highlights the importance of rigorous science and rigorous guidelines development to support the growing use of acupuncture in clinical practice. Without that solid basis, we risk increasing harm to patients and not realising the full potential of acupuncture. For that reason, this is an essential series of articles that needs to be read, understood, and acted upon by clinicians, researchers, and policymakers globally.”

Read the full collection here:



More information for editors:


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

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

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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