Systematic reviews showed insufficient evidence for clinical practice in 2004: what about in 2011? The next appeal for the evidence-based medicine age

J Eval Clin Pract. 2013 Aug;19(4):633-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2753.2012.01877.x. Epub 2012 Jul 3.


Rationale and aim: The aims of the Cochrane systematic reviews are to make readily available and up-to-date information for clinical practice, offering consistent evidence and straightforward recommendations. In 2004, we evaluated the conclusions from Cochrane systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials in terms of their recommendations for clinical practice and found that 47.83% of them had insufficient evidence for use in clinical practice. We proposed to reanalyze the reviews to evaluate whether this percentage had significantly decreased.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of systematic reviews published in the Cochrane Library (Issue 7, 2011) was conducted. We randomly selected reviews across all 52 Cochrane Collaborative Review Groups.

Results: We analyzed 1128 completed systematic reviews. Of these, 45.30% concluded that the interventions studied were likely to be beneficial, of which only 2.04% recommended no further research. In total, 45.04% of the reviews reported that the evidence did not support either benefit or harm, of which 0.8% did not recommend further studies and 44.24% recommended additional studies; the latter has decreased from our previous study with a difference of 3.59%.

Conclusion: Only a small number of the Cochrane collaboration's systematic reviews support clinical interventions with no need for additional research. A larger number of high-quality randomized clinical trials are necessary to change the 'insufficient evidence' scenario for clinical practice illustrated by the Cochrane database. It is recommended that we should produce higher-quality primary studies in active collaboration and consultation with global scholars and societies so that this can represent a major component of methodological advance in this context.

Keywords: Cochrane reviews; clinical medicine; clinical trials; evidence-based medicine; limitations; meta-analysis; research; review literature.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Evidence-Based Practice / standards*
  • Humans
  • Random Allocation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Review Literature as Topic*