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Cochrane Corner

The Cochrane Collaboration just keeps on growing. The third annual colloquium in Oslo last October attracted about 300 people from 23 countries. There were 19 review groups formally registered with the Collaboration by the end of last year (one with 10 sub-groups), as well as two fields. They are shown below.

Groups and fields registered with the Cochrane Collaboration by November 1995 were:

Collaborative Review Groups:

  • Pregnancy & Childbirth
  • Subfertility
  • Neonatal
  • Stroke
  • Musculoskeletal (with 10 subgroups)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Parasitic diseases
  • Oral health
  • Acute respiratory infections
  • Effective professional practice
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic wounds
  • Airways
  • Dementia & cognitive disorders
  • Tobacco addiction
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Cystic fibrosis


  • Primary health care
  • The consumer network

Finding the RCTs

One of the tasks undertaken by the Collaboration is searching the medical literature to identify randomised controlled trials (RCTs). The Cochrane Centre in Baltimore (USA) coordinates this activity, and perhaps the most important aspect is that identified RCTs are notified to the National Library of Medicine so that they can be tagged as RCTs in MEDLINE. This makes the results of many hours of painstaking hand-searching of journals, and of electronic searching available to anyone wanting to do systematic reviews of RCTs.

So far over 10,000 hand search citations and over 14,000 citations identified by electronic means have been transferred, and they will be included in the 1996 version of MEDLINE. With previously coded work from the Collaboration and the National Library of medicine, this makes over 66,000 randomised and controlled clinical trials tagged as such on MEDLINE.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

This is a beautiful piece of software that is a joy to use. The newly updated version contains 65 reviews and titles for 220 more. It also includes bibliographies of previously published systematic reviews, a bibliography of methodological articles and information on the Cochrane Collaboration.

The CDSR is available on disc and CD-ROM in Windows, Macintosh and DOS formats. The BMJ Publishing Group distribute it (BMA House; fax 0171 383 6662) and a year's subscription costs £75 (personal) or £100 (institutional).

This is useful information to have on your desk. It may not have all the answers you need right now, but it is getting better all the time. Using it is easy - almost to three clicks and you're there. The graphical displays and commentaries on the results are user-friendly, and obvious just by looking. It's too easy for rocket scientists or computer freaks.

Brownie points

For authors who may have worried that performing and publishing systematic reviews and meta-analyses will not gain them any HEFCE points there is some important news. The UK Higher Education Funding Councils have recognised systematic reviews - "publication of systematic reviews (for example of the Cochrane type) will be considered as an indicator of quality".

Contacting Cochrane

Bandolier's advice to GPs and others is to splash out a little and get used to looking at evidence, and be ahead of the game. Some of you might also want to get actively involved in searching, preparing or maintaining reviews. The address for help and advice about the Cochrane Collaboration is:
UK Cochrane Centre
Summertown Pavilion
Middle Way
Oxford OX2 7LG
Tel: 01865 516300
Fax: 01865 516311

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