Article review: Wasted research when systematic reviews fail to provide a complete and up-to-date evidence synthesis

Wasted research when systematic reviews fail to provide a complete and up-to-date evidence synthesis: the example of lung cancer. Créquit P et al. BMC Medicine 2016 14:8

Should I admit to liking this article?  Enjoying it because it highlights the folly of relying on high-cost, not fit for purpose, systematic reviews.

The background of the paper is:

Multiple treatments are frequently available for a given condition, and clinicians and patients need a comprehensive, up-to-date synthesis of evidence for all competing treatments. We aimed to quantify the waste of research related to the failure of systematic reviews to provide a complete and up-to-date evidence synthesis over time.

And the authors concluded:

We illustrate how systematic reviews of a given condition provide a fragmented, out-of-date panorama of the evidence for all treatments. This waste of research might be reduced by the development of live cumulative network meta-analyses.

Equally damning was this passage from the discussion:

Our comparison of the amount of randomized evidence covered by systematic reviews and all randomized trials available for inclusion revealed a substantial waste related to the failure of systematic reviews to accumulate evidence scientifically: the evidence covered by existing systematic reviews on the topic was always substantially incomplete, with 40 % or more of treatments, treatment comparisons, and trials missing.

The authors discuss the reasons and highlight the notion of living systematic reviews further highlighting the challenges this notion creates.

Overall, this is a really rich and thoughtful article.  It’s challenging to anybody interested in evidence synthesis – whether you favour rapid or long-winded approaches.

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4 thoughts on “Article review: Wasted research when systematic reviews fail to provide a complete and up-to-date evidence synthesis

  1. I also liked this article. Evidence syntheses of all available treatments for a condition could be created on the fly if individual studies were tracked, coded and catalogued systematically and prospectively outside the review process. All research for a condition or a particular population would then be “review ready”, A systematic approach to collecting “evidence of evidence” outside the review process would reduce the waste and incomplete coverage of evidence sytheses exposed by the authors of this article.

    Like

  2. Hi Caroline, I’m actually planning that as part of the Horizon2020 grant I’m part of. I think, technically, it’s entirely possible. Just needs the will and some elbow grease!

    Liked by 1 person

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