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In this issue
  1. Adrian White, Editor

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‘Keep calm, and carry on’: this cliché now applies to the psychiatric waiting list, to the operating theatre, and to the Editor; but firstly, to Korean medicine.

This journal's mission is to publish evidence about the use of acupuncture in the health service, both for and against. So information about acupuncture in other health services can be instructive. Clearly, all is not calm in Korea, as there has been a noticeable rise in the rate of serious adverse events of acupuncture being reported by conventional physicians in Korea. The reports seem to have had a critical undertone, seemingly trying more to score points about the dangers of Korean acupuncturists, than aim to improve acupuncture practice for patient benefit. Clues are found by looking at the argument used to attribute the event to acupuncture, and in particular how much trouble was taken to discover details of the treatment by interviewing the acupuncturist. These reports suggested that relations between the professions in Korea are not good.

Indeed, T-Y Lee's editorial explains all: the state authorises and funds both Western and (traditional) Korean medicine, which are available in parallel. Such status has brought an enviable level of recognition and financial support to acupuncture, and has stimulated acupuncture research. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, it has also brought ‘turf wars’ between the two professions, most notably on dry needling and access to investigations. Lee notes Park's earlier plea for calm negotiations. This background provides some context to the contributions of two articles in this issue: Y-S Lee et al show that Korean medicine is used by patients with the greatest health needs and largest number of comorbidities – an unglamorous service, and a possibly unrecognised significant contribution to the nation's overall health care; and Kim et al find preliminary evidence that the cost benefits of acupuncture for back pain are likely to be similar in Korea to those found in European studies, which are cost-effective. We hope these reports can go some way to restoring the calm that has been disturbed by any polemical reports of adverse events.

We note with interest that Korean acupuncture has rejected its traditional classification of disease and adopted the western version, bringing the hope that acupuncture research too will adopt the medical acupuncture approach to treatment.

Patients on the waiting list for psychiatry are far from calm – until they have a course of acupuncture, as Errington-Evans shows in his clinical trial. Although the impact of the trial will be limited by the placebo response that was inevitable in this design, nevertheless a highly pragmatic intervention using relatively undemanding acupuncture was highly successful.

Another group of patients that were measurably calmer (as measured objectively using the Narcotrend Index, figure 1) are the patients that were given electroacupuncture by Chen et al in addition to standard anaesthesia technique. There were no adverse circulatory effects, the only slight drawback being the 20 minute delay of onset.

And finally, your editor in chief will be keeping calm but not carrying on. After 10 fulfilling years at the helm of Acupuncture in Medicine, that wonderful window on the world of medical acupuncture, I am now retiring. Any progress achieved during this time would have been impossible without the skills and support of many people, most notably the Associate Editors, the Editorial Board, and particularly to the staff of BMJ. I am deeply grateful to them all. Readers should be reassured that the journal exists for you, and that our new EiC, David Carr, will hold you very much in mind as he guides Acupuncture in Medicine forward.

Figure 1

Comparison of Narcotrend index (NT index) values with equilibrium values in the two groups. EA, electroacupuncture.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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