Evidence-based medicine (EBM) was announced in the early 1990s as a ‘new paradigm’
for improving patient care. Yet there is currently little evidence that EBM has achieved its
aim. Since its introduction, health care costs have increased while there remains a lack of
high-quality evidence suggesting EBM has resulted in substantial population-level health
gains. In this paper we suggest that EBM’s potential for improving patients’ health care has
been thwarted by bias in the choice of hypotheses tested, manipulation of study design and
selective publication. Evidence for these flaws is clearest in industry-funded studies. We
argue EBM’s indiscriminate acceptance of industry-generated ‘evidence’ is akin to letting
politicians count their own votes. Given that most intervention studies are industry funded,
this is a serious problem for the overall evidence base. Clinical decisions based on such
evidence are likely to be misinformed, with patients given less effective, harmful or more
expensive treatments. More investment in independent research is urgently required. Inde-
pendent bodies, informed democratically, need to set research priorities. We also propose
that evidence rating schemes are formally modified so research with conflict of interest bias
is explicitly downgraded in value.
This paper is well worth reading.