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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2023, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (4): 315-319.doi: 10.1016/j.joim.2023.03.007

• Commentary •     Next Articles

Delivery of acupuncture in clinical trials: Research acupuncturists’perspectives

Joyce K. Anastasi a, Bernadette Capili b, Jessica Neumaier a, Londa Hackett a   

  1. a. Division of Special Studies in Symptom Management, New York University, New York, NY 10010, USA
    b. Heilbrunn Family Center for Research Nursing, the Rockefeller University, New York, NY 10065, USA
  • Received:2022-08-04 Accepted:2022-10-20 Online:2023-07-17 Published:2023-07-17
  • Contact: Joyce K. Anastasi

Delivery of acupuncture in the setting of a clinical trial is a unique practice that diverges significantly from the delivery of acupuncture in a real-world clinical setting. Research acupuncturists, particularly those trained in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), are often required to set aside valued precepts of traditional care, including diagnosing imbalances, individualizing treatment, and forging a therapeutic relationship with patients. TCM-trained acupuncturists express mixed feelings about participating in clinical trials. Many are eager to play a vital role in the advancement of acupuncture science and appreciate the need for strict protocol adherence to minimize bias. However, the acupuncturist(s) may also have concerns about clinical trial methodology, including but not limited to the delivery of a control condition, e.g., sham acupuncture. Investigators should anticipate certain questions and even a level of resistance to the requirements of research among acupuncturists and be prepared to address them. This manuscript presents a brief review of the subjective experience of the research acupuncturist within the available scientific literature as it pertains to the delivery of active and sham clinical research protocols. Our goals are to better understand the perspectives of acupuncturists who may participate in clinical research, so that their concerns may be addressed in study design and methodology. To that end, we suggest the creation of a novel training program specifically for clinical trial acupuncturists, intended for qualified TCM- and Western-trained practitioners, that would help to standardize the research acupuncturist’s role and help to strengthen the design and execution of acupuncture studies.

Key words: Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese medicine, Clinical protocols, Health knowledge, attitudes, practice, Researcher-subject relationship, Placebos

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