By SWAPNIL HIREMATH MD, MPH
Archie Cochrane and the Cochrane Collaboration
Archie Cochrane was born in Scotland, educated in London (King’s College, University College and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) and worked in Cardiff, Wales. His work as a doctor during the Spanish Civil War and World War II, especially in a prisoner of war camp in Salonica, is credited with his push towards generating higher quality evidence. In his description of the clinical trial he conducted, he mentions James Lind as his hero. Ironically, that clinical trial – with weak randomization, open allocation, non-blinding of investigator or participants, and use of surrogate outcomes, would rate poorly in the Cochrane risk of bias tool.
But the scientific method of measuring stuck with him, and among many other achievements, he did perform a proper randomized clinical trial (RCT) a few decades later. He continued to be a strong supporter of RCTs and pushed for the Medical Research Council (MRC) to move from purely fundamental research towards applied clinical research. As an aside, the first proper RCT in the modern era was funded by the MRC and was published in 1950 – on the use of Streptomycin vs para-aminosalicylic acid, or a combination, in tuberculosis. Far more influential was his paper (and later book) published as part of the Rock Carling Fellowship, available here freely and worth a read. It’s where he puts forward the vision for RCTs in moving towards what he termed an ‘effective, efficient health service’.