Reviews and reports

About Cochrane Reviews

Information about the Cochrane Collaboration and systematic reviews
It is an international non-profit organisation that aims to help people make informed decisions about health care by reviewing and promoting the best available evidence from research on the effects of various treatments. The Collaboration also aims to influence what the direction of future research by identifying areas where more research is needed.

We are all aware that some health care treatments make you better, some don’t and sometimes the treatment can be even worse than the condition. Sometimes it seems as though a drug/treatment worked, but really the benefit came from something else or maybe you would have just got better anyway. So both patients and doctors need good evidence from research to know the effects of a drug or treatment in order to decide whether we should try it. This also applies to decision-making bodies, such as the NHS.

How is this good evidence acquired?
However good individual studies maybe, they are often carried out on specific groups of people or on small numbers so the results cannot be extended to assume that the effects of the treatment will be the same for everyone with a particular condition. Publication bias also creeps in as a great deal of good research is not published and so we are not receiving the complete picture.

Cochrane groups carry out systematic searches for all the studies on a topic and then sort out which are the good quality studies [randomised controlled trials or RCTs]. Conclusions can then be drawn that give a much more complete picture of whether or not a drug/treatment is effective. A review may show that there is no evidence to support a particular drug/treatment or that little or no good quality research has been carried out. This is equally important because it means that the use or prescribing of that drug/treatment is not based on proven benefit from research.