With one million research publications each year, it is impossible keep up with what is happening in medical research. The solution is an independent global network that reviews everything from possible frauds to potential Nobel Prize winners. It is also a considerable aid for doctors in finding the latest recommendations for various treatments.
Matteo Bruschettini is a neonatal doctor who came to Sweden three years ago to research the development of the brain in prematurely born children. In his own country, Italy, he was already involved in Cochrane – an international network that reviews and compiles medical clinical research. Matteo Bruschettini has been head of the Swedish section of Cochrane since its introduction in Lund last year.
“One million medical research articles are published every year and the need for systematic overviews has increased. It is totally impossible for nurses and doctors to keep pace with everything that is published and the results of various clinical studies can also be uncertain and at variance”, explains Matteo Bruschettini.
Some studies may be conducted by people who are not trained to produce good research. Others may be of Noble Prize standard, but for some reason the researchers have not managed to publish their results in an effective way. There are many factors that affect the research that is published and at the next stage it has an impact on the standard of healthcare. Cochrane is therefore important – an independent network that systematically assesses quality and sums up the best available conclusions from research as a basis for decision-making in healthcare.
“One example of this kind of compilation work is that previously it was always recommended that infants should sleep on their stomach. However, through reviewing different studies it was realised that instances of sudden infant death syndrome could be reduced by recommending instead that infants should sleep on their back.
In Sweden most nurses and doctors know what Cochrane is and use it in their daily work. More than 80 per cent of the recommendations issued by WHO are based on reviews from the Cochrane network. As most of today’s medical research is funded by the pharmaceuticals industry, it is crucial to be independent and transparent. For that reason, the Cochrane network mainly consists of volunteers conducting unpaid work.
Cochrane has attracted enormous interest in the short time it has been active in Sweden. Matteo Bruschettini thinks that the launch has exceeded expectations. However, even though Cochrane was established in 1993, it was not until last year that the network started up in Sweden.
“Sweden is one of the best countries in the world for medical research and there are many like me who have left their own country to come here and conduct research. However, Sweden has focused much more on preclinical and clinical studies, observational studies and register-based research than on overview articles, which I think is one of the reasons why the launch of Cochrane has been a long time coming.”
Matteo Bruschettini is now looking forward to more people joining the Swedish network and is very positive about the future.
“An interesting new option for medical students at Lund University is a course about Cochrane and its methods, something which we hope to introduce in study programmes at other Swedish universities”, he concludes.
FACTS Cochrane Collaboration
Cochrane Collaboration is a global, independent network of researchers, practitioners, patients, healthcare professionals and people in general who are interested in healthcare issues. It is a non-profit organisation with more than 37 000 members in over 130 countries who work together to produce credible and accessible health information that is free from commercial interests.