'One mission accomplished, more important ones remain': commentary on Every-Palmer, S., Howick, J. (2014) How evidence-based medicine is failing due to biased trials and selective publication. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 20 (6), 908-914

J Eval Clin Pract. 2015 Jun;21(3):518-28. doi: 10.1111/jep.12330. Epub 2015 Feb 26.


Every-Palmer and Howick suggest that evidence-based medicine (EBM) is failing in its mission because of contamination of research by manufacturer and researcher-motivated bias and self-interest. They fail to define that mission and to distinguish between the EBM movement and the research enterprise it was developed to critique. An educational movement, EBM accomplished its mission to simplify and package clinical epidemiological concepts in a form accessible to clinical learners. Its wide adoption within educational circles fostered critical literacy among several generations of practitioners. Illumination of bias, subterfuge and incomplete reporting of research has been a strength of EBM. Increased uptake and use of clinical research within the health care system properly defines the failing mission that eludes Every-Palmer and Howick. Responsibility for failure to make progress towards its achievement is shared by virtually all relevant streams within the system, including policy, clinical guideline development, educational movements and the development of approaches to evidence synthesis. Discordance between the epistemological premises pervading today's research and health care community and the complex social processes that ultimately determine research use constitutes an important factor that must be addressed as part of a remedy. Enhanced emphasis on and demonstration of alternative approaches to research such as realism and realist synthesis and the momentum towards development of a learning health care system hold promise as guideposts for the rapidly evolving health care environment.

Keywords: evidence-based medicine; health care; health policy.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Periodicals as Topic*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / ethics*
  • Research Support as Topic / economics*