Acupuncture has been widely recognized as a valuable and readily available means of health care. It is effective, requires only simple equipment and is inexpensive. However, the practice of acupuncture is still mainly based on tradition and personal experience.
Clinical studies and related research on acupuncture have been undertaken by independent groups, but the quality of research still varies considerably. The need for basic principles which can be followed by researchers involved in clinical research on acupuncture has been raised on several occasions.
In June 1994, a Working Group organized by the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific met in Aomori, Japan to develop guidelines for clinical research on acupuncture. This represented efforts to introduce basic principles and methods used in modem scientific research to evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture, whilst remaining sensitive to the different nature of the discipline.
The task of developing guidelines for clinical research on acupuncture was not an easy one. The guidelines had to incorporate a broad range of issues and disciplines involved in clinical research on acupuncture. They had to be suitable for use by researchers engaged in many different areas related to the evaluation of acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating various diseases and disorders. They needed to be acceptable to both traditional and modem medical disciplines.
It is hoped that these guidelines provide detailed criteria and methods which will be easily followed by researchers to design, conduct and evaluate their research project on acupuncture. However, they are also intended to be general enough to enable researchers to modify them to suit their own specific needs.
The publication of these guidelines will definitely promote clinical research on acupuncture in the Region as well as in other parts of the world. Although the experience obtained through the use of acupuncture over many years should not be ignored, scientific research on acupuncture will provide additional evidence to reconfirm its effectiveness, thereby enhancing its acceptance and utilization.
S.T. Han, MD, Ph. D.