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1.  Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Soil-Transmitted Helminth Infection: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001620.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Eric Strunz and colleagues examine whether improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices are associated with reduced risk of infections with soil-transmitted helminths.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Preventive chemotherapy represents a powerful but short-term control strategy for soil-transmitted helminthiasis. Since humans are often re-infected rapidly, long-term solutions require improvements in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). The purpose of this study was to quantitatively summarize the relationship between WASH access or practices and soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infection.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the associations of improved WASH on infection with STH (Ascaris lumbricoides, Trichuris trichiura, hookworm [Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus], and Strongyloides stercoralis). PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and LILACS were searched from inception to October 28, 2013 with no language restrictions. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they provided an estimate for the effect of WASH access or practices on STH infection. We assessed the quality of published studies with the Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. A total of 94 studies met our eligibility criteria; five were randomized controlled trials, whilst most others were cross-sectional studies. We used random-effects meta-analyses and analyzed only adjusted estimates to help account for heterogeneity and potential confounding respectively.
Use of treated water was associated with lower odds of STH infection (odds ratio [OR] 0.46, 95% CI 0.36–0.60). Piped water access was associated with lower odds of A. lumbricoides (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.39–0.41) and T. trichiura infection (OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.45–0.72), but not any STH infection (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.28–3.11). Access to sanitation was associated with decreased likelihood of infection with any STH (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.57–0.76), T. trichiura (OR 0.61, 95% CI 0.50–0.74), and A. lumbricoides (OR 0.62, 95% CI 0.44–0.88), but not with hookworm infection (OR 0.80, 95% CI 0.61–1.06). Wearing shoes was associated with reduced odds of hookworm infection (OR 0.29, 95% CI 0.18–0.47) and infection with any STH (OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.11–0.83). Handwashing, both before eating (OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.26–0.55) and after defecating (OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.35–0.58), was associated with lower odds of A. lumbricoides infection. Soap use or availability was significantly associated with lower infection with any STH (OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.29–0.98), as was handwashing after defecation (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.24–0.90).
Observational evidence constituted the majority of included literature, which limits any attempt to make causal inferences. Due to underlying heterogeneity across observational studies, the meta-analysis results reflect an average of many potentially distinct effects, not an average of one specific exposure-outcome relationship.
Conclusions
WASH access and practices are generally associated with reduced odds of STH infection. Pooled estimates from all meta-analyses, except for two, indicated at least a 33% reduction in odds of infection associated with individual WASH practices or access. Although most WASH interventions for STH have focused on sanitation, access to water and hygiene also appear to significantly reduce odds of infection. Overall quality of evidence was low due to the preponderance of observational studies, though recent randomized controlled trials have further underscored the benefit of handwashing interventions. Limited use of the Joint Monitoring Program's standardized water and sanitation definitions in the literature restricted efforts to generalize across studies. While further research is warranted to determine the magnitude of benefit from WASH interventions for STH control, these results call for multi-sectoral, integrated intervention packages that are tailored to social-ecological contexts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Worldwide, more than a billion people are infected with soil-transmitted helminths (STHs), parasitic worms that live in the human intestine (gut). These intestinal worms, including roundworm, hookworm, and whipworm, mainly occur in tropical and subtropical regions and are most common in developing countries, where personal hygiene is poor, there is insufficient access to clean water, and sanitation (disposal of human feces and urine) is inadequate or absent. STHs colonize the human intestine and their eggs are shed in feces and enter the soil. Humans ingest the eggs, either by touching contaminated ground or eating unwashed fruit and vegetables grown in such soil. Hookworm may enter the body by burrowing through the skin, most commonly when bare-footed individuals walk on infected soil. Repeated infection with STHs leads to a heavy parasite infestation of the gut, causing chronic diarrhea, intestinal bleeding, and abdominal pain. In addition the parasites compete with their human host for nutrients, leading to malnutrition, anemia, and, in heavily infected children, stunting of physical growth and slowing of mental development.
Why Was This Study Done?
While STH infections can be treated in the short-term with deworming medication, rapid re-infection is common, therefore a more comprehensive program of improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) is needed. WASH strategies include improvements in water access (e.g., water quality, water quantity, and distance to water), sanitation access (e.g., access to improved latrines, latrine maintenance, and fecal sludge management), and hygiene practices (e.g., handwashing before eating and/or after defecation, water treatment, soap use, wearing shoes, and water storage practices). WASH strategies have been shown to be effective for reducing rates of diarrhea and other neglected tropical diseases, such as trachoma; however, there is limited evidence linking specific WASH access or practices to STH infection rates. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers investigate whether WASH access or practices lower the risk of STH infections. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 94 studies that included measurements of the relationship between WASH access and practices with one or more types of STHs. Meta-analyses of the data from 35 of these studies indicated that overall people with access to WASH strategies or practices were about half as likely to be infected with any STH. Specifically, a lower odds of infection with any STH was observed for those people who use treated water (odd ratio [OR] of 0.46), have access to sanitation (OR of 0.66), wear shoes (OR of 0.30), and use soap or have soap availability (OR of 0.53) compared to those without access to these practices or strategies. In addition, infection with roundworm was less than half as likely in those who practiced handwashing both before eating and after defecating than those who did not practice handwashing (OR of 0.38 and 0.45, respectively).
What Do These Findings Mean?
The studies included in this systematic review and meta-analysis have several shortcomings. For example, most were cross-sectional surveys—studies that examined the effect of WASH strategies on STH infections in a population at a single time point. Given this study design, people with access to WASH strategies may have shared other characteristics that were actually responsible for the observed reductions in the risk of STH infections. Consequently, the overall quality of the included studies was low and there was some evidence for publication bias (studies showing a positive association are more likely to be published than those that do not). Nevertheless, these findings confirm that WASH access and practices provide an effective control measure for STH. Controlling STHs in developing countries would have a huge positive impact on the physical and mental health of the population, especially children, therefore there should be more emphasis on expanding access to WASH as part of development guidelines and targets, in addition to short-term preventative chemotherapy currently used.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001620.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides detailed information on roundworm, whipworm, and hookworm infections
The World Health Organization provides information on soil-transmitted helminths, including a description of the current control strategy
Children Without Worms (CWW) partners with Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, the World Health Organization, national ministries of health and education, non-governmental organizations, and others to promote treatment and prevention of soil-transmitted helminthiasis. CWW advocates a four-pronged, comprehensive control strategy—Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Education, and Deworming (WASHED) to break the cycle of reinfection
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an advocacy initiative dedicated to raising the awareness, political will, and funding necessary to control and eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases, provides information on infections with roundworm (ascariasis), whipworm (trichuriasis), and hookworm
WASH for the Neglected Tropical Diseases is a repository of information on WASH and the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and features a resource titled “WASH and the NTDs: A Manual for WASH Implementers.”
Two international programs promoting water sanitation are the World Health Organization Water Sanitation and Health program and the World Health Organization/United Nations Childrens Fund Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001620
PMCID: PMC3965411  PMID: 24667810
2.  Meta-analyses of Adverse Effects Data Derived from Randomised Controlled Trials as Compared to Observational Studies: Methodological Overview 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1001026.
Su Golder and colleagues carry out an overview of meta-analyses to assess whether estimates of the risk of harm outcomes differ between randomized trials and observational studies. They find that, on average, there is no difference in the estimates of risk between overviews of observational studies and overviews of randomized trials.
Background
There is considerable debate as to the relative merits of using randomised controlled trial (RCT) data as opposed to observational data in systematic reviews of adverse effects. This meta-analysis of meta-analyses aimed to assess the level of agreement or disagreement in the estimates of harm derived from meta-analysis of RCTs as compared to meta-analysis of observational studies.
Methods and Findings
Searches were carried out in ten databases in addition to reference checking, contacting experts, citation searches, and hand-searching key journals, conference proceedings, and Web sites. Studies were included where a pooled relative measure of an adverse effect (odds ratio or risk ratio) from RCTs could be directly compared, using the ratio of odds ratios, with the pooled estimate for the same adverse effect arising from observational studies. Nineteen studies, yielding 58 meta-analyses, were identified for inclusion. The pooled ratio of odds ratios of RCTs compared to observational studies was estimated to be 1.03 (95% confidence interval 0.93–1.15). There was less discrepancy with larger studies. The symmetric funnel plot suggests that there is no consistent difference between risk estimates from meta-analysis of RCT data and those from meta-analysis of observational studies. In almost all instances, the estimates of harm from meta-analyses of the different study designs had 95% confidence intervals that overlapped (54/58, 93%). In terms of statistical significance, in nearly two-thirds (37/58, 64%), the results agreed (both studies showing a significant increase or significant decrease or both showing no significant difference). In only one meta-analysis about one adverse effect was there opposing statistical significance.
Conclusions
Empirical evidence from this overview indicates that there is no difference on average in the risk estimate of adverse effects of an intervention derived from meta-analyses of RCTs and meta-analyses of observational studies. This suggests that systematic reviews of adverse effects should not be restricted to specific study types.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Whenever patients consult a doctor, they expect the treatments they receive to be effective and to have minimal adverse effects (side effects). To ensure that this is the case, all treatments now undergo exhaustive clinical research—carefully designed investigations that test new treatments and therapies in people. Clinical investigations fall into two main groups—randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational, or non-randomized, studies. In RCTs, groups of patients with a specific disease or condition are randomly assigned to receive the new treatment or a control treatment, and the outcomes (for example, improvements in health and the occurrence of specific adverse effects) of the two groups of patients are compared. Because the patients are randomly chosen, differences in outcomes between the two groups are likely to be treatment-related. In observational studies, patients who are receiving a specific treatment are enrolled and outcomes in this group are compared to those in a similar group of untreated patients. Because the patient groups are not randomly chosen, differences in outcomes between cases and controls may be the result of a hidden shared characteristic among the cases rather than treatment-related (so-called confounding variables).
Why Was This Study Done?
Although data from individual trials and studies are valuable, much more information about a potential new treatment can be obtained by systematically reviewing all the evidence and then doing a meta-analysis (so-called evidence-based medicine). A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a treatment; meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies to yield “pooled estimates” of the treatment effect (the efficacy of a treatment) and the risk of harm. Treatment effect estimates can differ between RCTs and observational studies, but what about adverse effect estimates? Can different study designs provide a consistent picture of the risk of harm, or are the results from different study designs so disparate that it would be meaningless to combine them in a single review? In this methodological overview, which comprises a systematic review and meta-analyses, the researchers assess the level of agreement in the estimates of harm derived from meta-analysis of RCTs with estimates derived from meta-analysis of observational studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched literature databases and reference lists, consulted experts, and hand-searched various other sources for studies in which the pooled estimate of an adverse effect from RCTs could be directly compared to the pooled estimate for the same adverse effect from observational studies. They identified 19 studies that together covered 58 separate adverse effects. In almost all instances, the estimates of harm obtained from meta-analyses of RCTs and observational studies had overlapping 95% confidence intervals. That is, in statistical terms, the estimates of harm were similar. Moreover, in nearly two-thirds of cases, there was agreement between RCTs and observational studies about whether a treatment caused a significant increase in adverse effects, a significant decrease, or no significant change (a significant change is one unlikely to have occurred by chance). Finally, the researchers used meta-analysis to calculate that the pooled ratio of the odds ratios (a statistical measurement of risk) of RCTs compared to observational studies was 1.03. This figure suggests that there was no consistent difference between risk estimates obtained from meta-analysis of RCT data and those obtained from meta-analysis of observational study data.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The findings of this methodological overview suggest that there is no difference on average in the risk estimate of an intervention's adverse effects obtained from meta-analyses of RCTs and from meta-analyses of observational studies. Although limited by some aspects of its design, this overview has several important implications for the conduct of systematic reviews of adverse effects. In particular, it suggests that, rather than limiting systematic reviews to certain study designs, it might be better to evaluate a broad range of studies. In this way, it might be possible to build a more complete, more generalizable picture of potential harms associated with an intervention, without any loss of validity, than by evaluating a single type of study. Such a picture, in combination with estimates of treatment effects also obtained from systematic reviews and meta-analyses, would help clinicians decide the best treatment for their patients.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001026.
The US National Institutes of Health provide information on clinical research; the UK National Health Service Choices Web site also has a page on clinical trials and medical research
The Cochrane Collaboration produces and disseminates systematic reviews of health-care interventions
Medline Plus provides links to further information about clinical trials (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001026
PMCID: PMC3086872  PMID: 21559325
3.  Evidence for the Selective Reporting of Analyses and Discrepancies in Clinical Trials: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies of Clinical Trials 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(6):e1001666.
In a systematic review of cohort studies, Kerry Dwan and colleagues examine the evidence for selective reporting and discrepancies in analyses between journal publications and other documents for clinical trials.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Most publications about selective reporting in clinical trials have focussed on outcomes. However, selective reporting of analyses for a given outcome may also affect the validity of findings. If analyses are selected on the basis of the results, reporting bias may occur. The aims of this study were to review and summarise the evidence from empirical cohort studies that assessed discrepant or selective reporting of analyses in randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
Methods and Findings
A systematic review was conducted and included cohort studies that assessed any aspect of the reporting of analyses of RCTs by comparing different trial documents, e.g., protocol compared to trial report, or different sections within a trial publication. The Cochrane Methodology Register, Medline (Ovid), PsycInfo (Ovid), and PubMed were searched on 5 February 2014. Two authors independently selected studies, performed data extraction, and assessed the methodological quality of the eligible studies. Twenty-two studies (containing 3,140 RCTs) published between 2000 and 2013 were included. Twenty-two studies reported on discrepancies between information given in different sources. Discrepancies were found in statistical analyses (eight studies), composite outcomes (one study), the handling of missing data (three studies), unadjusted versus adjusted analyses (three studies), handling of continuous data (three studies), and subgroup analyses (12 studies). Discrepancy rates varied, ranging from 7% (3/42) to 88% (7/8) in statistical analyses, 46% (36/79) to 82% (23/28) in adjusted versus unadjusted analyses, and 61% (11/18) to 100% (25/25) in subgroup analyses. This review is limited in that none of the included studies investigated the evidence for bias resulting from selective reporting of analyses. It was not possible to combine studies to provide overall summary estimates, and so the results of studies are discussed narratively.
Conclusions
Discrepancies in analyses between publications and other study documentation were common, but reasons for these discrepancies were not discussed in the trial reports. To ensure transparency, protocols and statistical analysis plans need to be published, and investigators should adhere to these or explain discrepancies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In the past, clinicians relied on their own experience when choosing the best treatment for their patients. Nowadays, they turn to evidence-based medicine—the systematic review and appraisal of trials, studies that investigate the benefits and harms of medical treatments in patients. However, evidence-based medicine can guide clinicians only if all the results from clinical trials are published in an unbiased and timely manner. Unfortunately, the results of trials in which a new drug performs better than existing drugs are more likely to be published than those in which the new drug performs badly or has unwanted side effects (publication bias). Moreover, trial outcomes that support the use of a new treatment are more likely to be published than those that do not support its use (outcome reporting bias). Recent initiatives—such as making registration of clinical trials in a trial registry (for example, ClinicalTrials.gov) a prerequisite for publication in medical journals—aim to prevent these biases, which pose a threat to informed medical decision-making.
Why Was This Study Done?
Selective reporting of analyses of outcomes may also affect the validity of clinical trial findings. Sometimes, for example, a trial publication will include a per protocol analysis (which considers only the outcomes of patients who received their assigned treatment) rather than a pre-planned intention-to-treat analysis (which considers the outcomes of all the patients regardless of whether they received their assigned treatment). If the decision to publish the per protocol analysis is based on the results of this analysis being more favorable than those of the intention-to-treat analysis (which more closely resembles “real” life), then “analysis reporting bias” has occurred. In this systematic review, the researchers investigate the selective reporting of analyses and discrepancies in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) by reviewing published studies that assessed selective reporting of analyses in groups (cohorts) of RCTs and discrepancies in analyses of RCTs between different sources (for example, between the protocol in a trial registry and the journal publication) or different sections of a source. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 22 cohort studies (containing 3,140 RCTs) that were eligible for inclusion in their systematic review. All of these studies reported on discrepancies between the information provided by the RCTs in different places, but none investigated the evidence for analysis reporting bias. Several of the cohort studies reported, for example, that there were discrepancies in the statistical analyses included in the different documents associated with the RCTs included in their analysis. Other types of discrepancies reported by the cohort studies included discrepancies in the reporting of composite outcomes (an outcome in which multiple end points are combined) and in the reporting of subgroup analyses (investigations of outcomes in subgroups of patients that should be predefined in the trial protocol to avoid bias). Discrepancy rates varied among the RCTs according to the types of analyses and cohort studies considered. Thus, whereas in one cohort study discrepancies were present in the statistical test used for the analysis of the primary outcome in only 7% of the included studies, they were present in the subgroup analyses of all the included studies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that discrepancies in analyses between publications and other study documents such as protocols in trial registries are common. The reasons for these discrepancies in analyses were not discussed in trial reports but may be the result of reporting bias, errors, or legitimate departures from a pre-specified protocol. For example, a statistical analysis that is not specified in the trial protocol may sometimes appear in a publication because the journal requested its inclusion as a condition of publication. The researchers suggest that it may be impossible for systematic reviewers to distinguish between these possibilities simply by looking at the source documentation. Instead, they suggest, it may be necessary for reviewers to contact the trial authors. However, to make selective reporting of analyses more easily detectable, they suggest that protocols and analysis plans should be published and that investigators should be required to stick to these plans or explain any discrepancies when they publish their trial results. Together with other initiatives, this approach should help improve the quality of evidence-based medicine and, as a result, the treatment of patients.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001666.
Wikipedia has pages on evidence-based medicine, on systematic reviews, and on publication bias (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
ClinicalTrials.gov provides information about the US National Institutes of Health clinical trial registry, including background information about clinical trials
The Cochrane Collaboration is a global independent network of health practitioners, researchers, patient advocates, and others that aims to promote evidence-informed health decision-making by producing high-quality, relevant, accessible systematic reviews and other synthesized research evidence; the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions describes the preparation of systematic reviews in detail
PLOS Medicine recently launched a Reporting Guidelines Collection, an open-access collection of reporting guidelines, commentary, and related research on guidelines from across PLOS journals that aims to help advance the efficiency, effectiveness, and equitability of the dissemination of biomedical information
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001666
PMCID: PMC4068996  PMID: 24959719
4.  Epidemiology and Reporting Characteristics of Systematic Reviews 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(3):e78.
Background
Systematic reviews (SRs) have become increasingly popular to a wide range of stakeholders. We set out to capture a representative cross-sectional sample of published SRs and examine them in terms of a broad range of epidemiological, descriptive, and reporting characteristics, including emerging aspects not previously examined.
Methods and Findings
We searched Medline for SRs indexed during November 2004 and written in English. Citations were screened and those meeting our inclusion criteria were retained. Data were collected using a 51-item data collection form designed to assess the epidemiological and reporting details and the bias-related aspects of the reviews. The data were analyzed descriptively. In total 300 SRs were identified, suggesting a current annual publication rate of about 2,500, involving more than 33,700 separate studies including one-third of a million participants. The majority (272 [90.7%]) of SRs were reported in specialty journals. Most reviews (213 [71.0%]) were categorized as therapeutic, and included a median of 16 studies involving 1,112 participants. Funding sources were not reported in more than one-third (122 [40.7%]) of the reviews. Reviews typically searched a median of three electronic databases and two other sources, although only about two-thirds (208 [69.3%]) of them reported the years searched. Most (197/295 [66.8%]) reviews reported information about quality assessment, while few (68/294 [23.1%]) reported assessing for publication bias. A little over half (161/300 [53.7%]) of the SRs reported combining their results statistically, of which most (147/161 [91.3%]) assessed for consistency across studies. Few (53 [17.7%]) SRs reported being updates of previously completed reviews. No review had a registration number. Only half (150 [50.0%]) of the reviews used the term “systematic review” or “meta-analysis” in the title or abstract. There were large differences between Cochrane reviews and non-Cochrane reviews in the quality of reporting several characteristics.
Conclusions
SRs are now produced in large numbers, and our data suggest that the quality of their reporting is inconsistent. This situation might be improved if more widely agreed upon evidence-based reporting guidelines were endorsed and adhered to by authors and journals. These results substantiate the view that readers should not accept SRs uncritically.
Data were collected on the epidemiological, descriptive, and reporting characteristics of recent systematic reviews. A descriptive analysis found inconsistencies in the quality of reporting.
Editors' Summary
Background.
In health care it is important to assess all the evidence available about what causes a disease or the best way to prevent, diagnose, or treat it. Decisions should not be made simply on the basis of—for example—the latest or biggest research study, but after a full consideration of the findings from all the research of good quality that has so far been conducted on the issue in question. This approach is known as “evidence-based medicine” (EBM). A report that is based on a search for studies addressing a clearly defined question, a quality assessment of the studies found, and a synthesis of the research findings, is known as a systematic review (SR). Conducting an SR is itself regarded as a research project and the methods involved can be quite complex. In particular, as with other forms of research, it is important to do everything possible to reduce bias. The leading role in developing the SR concept and the methods that should be used has been played by an international network called the Cochrane Collaboration (see “Additional Information” below), which was launched in 1992. However, SRs are now becoming commonplace. Many articles published in journals and elsewhere are described as being systematic reviews.
Why Was This Study Done?
Since systematic reviews are claimed to be the best source of evidence, it is important that they should be well conducted and that bias should not have influenced the conclusions drawn in the review. Just because the authors of a paper that discusses evidence on a particular topic claim that they have done their review “systematically,” it does not guarantee that their methods have been sound and that their report is of good quality. However, if they have reported details of their methods, then it can help users of the review decide whether they are looking at a review with conclusions they can rely on. The authors of this PLoS Medicine article wanted to find out how many SRs are now being published, where they are being published, and what questions they are addressing. They also wanted to see how well the methods of SRs are being reported.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They picked one month and looked for all the SRs added to the main list of medical literature in that month. They found 300, on a range of topics and in a variety of medical journals. They estimate that about 20% of reviews appearing each year are published by the Cochrane Collaboration. They found many cases in which important aspects of the methods used were not reported. For example, about a third of the SRs did not report how (if at all) the quality of the studies found in the search had been assessed. An important assessment, which analyzes for “publication bias,” was reported as having been done in only about a quarter of the cases. Most of the reporting failures were in the “non-Cochrane” reviews.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The authors concluded that the standards of reporting of SRs vary widely and that readers should, therefore, not accept the conclusions of SRs uncritically. To improve this situation, they urge that guidelines be drawn up regarding how SRs are reported. The writers of SRs and also the journals that publish them should follow these guidelines.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040078.
An editorial discussing this research article and its relevance to medical publishing appears in the same issue of PLoS Medicine
A good source of information on the evidence-based approach to medicine is the James Lind Library
The Web site of the Cochrane Collaboration is a good source of information on systematic reviews. In particular there is a newcomers' guide and information for health care “consumers”. From this Web site, it is also possible to see summaries of the SRs published by the Cochrane Collaboration (readers in some countries can also view the complete SRs free of charge)
Information on the practice of evidence-based medicine is available from the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040078
PMCID: PMC1831728  PMID: 17388659
5.  Effect of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene on the Prevention of Trachoma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(2):e1001605.
Matthew Freeman and colleagues identified 86 individual studies that reported a measure of the effect of water, sanitation, and hygiene on trachoma and conducted 15 meta-analyses for specific exposure-outcome pairs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Trachoma is the world's leading cause of infectious blindness. The World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed the SAFE strategy in order to eliminate blindness due to trachoma by 2020 through “surgery,” “antibiotics,” “facial cleanliness,” and “environmental improvement.” While the S and A components have been widely implemented, evidence and specific targets are lacking for the F and E components, of which water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are critical elements. Data on the impact of WASH on trachoma are needed to support policy and program recommendations. Our objective was to systematically review the literature and conduct meta-analyses where possible to report the effects of WASH conditions on trachoma and identify research gaps.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched PubMed, Embase, ISI Web of Knowledge, MedCarib, Lilacs, REPIDISCA, DESASTRES, and African Index Medicus databases through October 27, 2013 with no restrictions on language or year of publication. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they reported a measure of the effect of WASH on trachoma, either active disease indicated by observed signs of trachomatous inflammation or Chlamydia trachomatis infection diagnosed using PCR. We identified 86 studies that reported a measure of the effect of WASH on trachoma. To evaluate study quality, we developed a set of criteria derived from the GRADE methodology. Publication bias was assessed using funnel plots. If three or more studies reported measures of effect for a comparable WASH exposure and trachoma outcome, we conducted a random-effects meta-analysis. We conducted 15 meta-analyses for specific exposure-outcome pairs. Access to sanitation was associated with lower trachoma as measured by the presence of trachomatous inflammation-follicular or trachomatous inflammation-intense (TF/TI) (odds ratio [OR] 0.85, 95% CI 0.75–0.95) and C. trachomatis infection (OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.55–0.78). Having a clean face was significantly associated with reduced odds of TF/TI (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.32–0.52), as were facial cleanliness indicators lack of ocular discharge (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.23–0.61) and lack of nasal discharge (OR 0.62, 95% CI 0.52–0.72). Facial cleanliness indicators were also associated with reduced odds of C. trachomatis infection: lack of ocular discharge (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.31–0.49) and lack of nasal discharge (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.37–0.76). Other hygiene factors found to be significantly associated with reduced TF/TI included face washing at least once daily (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.57–0.96), face washing at least twice daily (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.80–0.90), soap use (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.59–0.93), towel use (OR 0.65, 95% CI 0.53–0.78), and daily bathing practices (OR 0.76, 95% CI 0.53–0.99). Living within 1 km of a water source was not found to be significantly associated with TF/TI or C. trachomatis infection, and the use of sanitation facilities was not found to be significantly associated with TF/TI.
Conclusions
We found strong evidence to support F and E components of the SAFE strategy. Though limitations included moderate to high heterogenity, low study quality, and the lack of standard definitions, these findings support the importance of WASH in trachoma elimination strategies and the need for the development of standardized approaches to measuring WASH in trachoma control programs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection, which if left untreated may lead to irreversible blindness. Repeated infections over many years cause scarring on the eyelid, making the eyelashes turn inward. This causes pain and damage to the cornea at the front of the eye, which eventually leads to loss of vision. The disease is most common in rural areas in low-income countries, specifically sub-Saharan Africa. It spreads easily through contact with the discharge from an infected eye or nose, by hands, or by flies landing on the face. Women and children are more often affected than men. Trachoma is the world's leading cause of preventable blindness. A global alliance, led by The World Health Organization, is aiming to eliminate trachoma by 2020 by adopting the SAFE strategy. There are four components of this strategy. Two relate to treating the disease—“surgery” and “antibiotics.” The other two components relate to long-term prevention by promoting “facial” cleanliness and “environmental” changes (for example improving access to water and sanitation or reducing the breeding grounds for flies).
Why Was This Study Done?
The SAFE approach has been very successful in reducing the number of people with trachoma from 84 million in 2003 to 21.4 million in 2012. However, it is widely recognized that efforts need to be scaled up to reach the 2020 goal. Furthermore, if current improvements are to be sustained, then more attention needs to be given to the “F” and “E” elements and effective prevention. This study aimed to identify the most effective ways to improve hygiene, sanitation, and access to water for better trachoma control, and to find better ways of monitoring progress. The overall goal was to summarize the evidence in order to devise strategic and cost-effective approaches to trachoma prevention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a systematic review, which involved first identifying and then assessing the quality of all of the research published on this topic. They then carried out a statistical analysis of the combined data from these studies, with the aim of drawing more robust conclusions (a meta-analysis). The analysis involved 15 different water, sanitation, and hygiene exposures (either hardware or practices, as determined by what was available in the literature) to determine which had the biggest impact on reducing the levels of trachoma. Most of the data came from studies carried out in Africa. The findings suggested that 11 of these exposures made a significant difference to the risk of infection or clinical symptoms of the disease. Improving personal hygiene had the greatest impact. Effective measures included face washing once or twice a day, using soap, using a towel, and daily bathing. Similarly, access to a sanitation facility, rather than open ground, also had a positive impact. The researchers also analyzed the data relating to water access. However, the studies so far have not yet measured this in a way that addresses the issues relevant to trachoma infection. Most studies have looked at whether the distance from a water source has an impact (and it seems it does not), whereas it may be more important to assess whether people have access to clean water or to enough water to wash. Many of these analyses require additional research to further clarify the impact of individual water, sanitation, and hygiene exposure on disease.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Overall, the results support that notion that water, sanitation, and hygiene are important components of an integrated strategy to control trachoma. Based on the research available to date, the two most effective ways are face washing and having access to a household-level sanitation facility, typically a simple pit latrine. The findings also point to ways in which current policy could be improved. Firstly, public health guidance should be placing greater emphasis on keeping the face clean. Current advice tends to focus on washing with clean water, but use of soap appears more effective. There are also opportunities for organizations to collaborate in this area. For example, organizations focusing on the prevention of diarrhea in children, which promote handwashing, could at the same time campaign for face washing to reduce transmission of trachoma. The second policy area to target is access to good quality sanitation. Such policy initiatives need to be better resourced in countries where trachoma is a problem. For example, although sub-Saharan Africa has the world's highest burden of trachoma, more than 50% of households there still do not have access to any sanitation facility.
There were a number of limitations to this study, which may affect the strength of the conclusions. The researchers found that many studies on this topic were observational, meaning that they did not assess an intervention and employ a control group, thus they are of limited rigor for assessing the impact of a water, sanitation, and hygiene intervention on trachoma. There was also a lot of variation in the way that different studies had defined and measured improvements to water, sanitation, and hygiene access. This made it difficult to make comparisons. Standard methods and indicators need to be developed for this purpose. The study also highlighted gaps in the research. More work is required to determine precisely what is needed in terms of access to water to reduce the incidence of trachoma. Similarly, in terms of improving sanitation, it is still unclear whether ensuring every household has a simple, onsite facility would be more effective than providing clean communal facilities. The potential role of schools in promoting relevant public health measures also needs investigation.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001605.
WHO provides information on trachoma (in several languages)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on trachoma
International Trachoma Initiative is dedicated to the goal of elimination of blinding trachoma
The Carter Center: Trachoma Control Program has a Trachoma Health Education Materials Library
WASHNTD has an online manual resource for NTDs for WASH policy and programming
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001605
PMCID: PMC3934994  PMID: 24586120
6.  Towards evidence based medicine for paediatricians 
In order to give the best care to patients and families, paediatricians need to integrate the highest quality scientific evidence with clinical expertise and the opinions of the family.1Archimedes seeks to assist practising clinicians by providing “evidence based” answers to common questions which are not at the forefront of research but are at the core of practice. In doing this, we are adapting a format which has been successfully developed by Kevin Macaway‐Jones and the group at the Emergency Medicine Journal—“BestBets”.
A word of warning. The topic summaries are not systematic reviews, through they are as exhaustive as a practising clinician can produce. They make no attempt to statistically aggregate the data, nor search the grey, unpublished literature. What Archimedes offers are practical, best evidence based answers to practical, clinical questions.
The format of Archimedes may be familiar. A description of the clinical setting is followed by a structured clinical question. (These aid in focusing the mind, assisting searching,2 and gaining answers.3) A brief report of the search used follows—this has been performed in a hierarchical way, to search for the best quality evidence to answer the question.4 A table provides a summary of the evidence and key points of the critical appraisal. For further information on critical appraisal, and the measures of effect (such as number needed to treat, NNT) books by Sackett5 and Moyer6 may help. To pull the information together, a commentary is provided. But to make it all much more accessible, a box provides the clinical bottom lines.
Readers wishing to submit their own questions—with best evidence answers—are encouraged to review those already proposed at www.bestbets.org. If your question still hasn't been answered, feel free to submit your summary according to the Instructions for Authors at www.archdischild.com. Three topics are covered in this issue of the journal:
Does neonatal BCG vaccination protect against tuberculous meningitis?
Does dexamethasone reduce the risk of extubation failure in ventilated children?
Should metformin be prescribed to overweight adolescents in whom dietary/behavioural modifications have not helped?
REFERENCES
1. Moyer VA, Ellior EJ. Preface. In: Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health, Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
2. Richardson WS, Wilson MC, Nishikawa J, et al. The well‐built clinical question: a key to evidence‐based decisions. ACP J Club 1995;123:A12–13.
3. Bergus GR, Randall CS, Sinift SD, et al. Does the structure of clinical questions affect the outcome of curbside consultations with specialty colleagues? Arch Fam Med 2000;9:541–7.
4. http://cebm.jr2.ox.ac.uk/docs/levels.htm (accessed July 2002).
5. Sackett DL, Starus S, Richardson WS, et al. Evidence‐based medicine. How to practice and teach EBM. San Diego: Harcourt‐Brace, 2000.
6. Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health, Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
How to read your journals
Most people have their journals land, monthly, weekly, or quarterly, on their desk, courtesy of their professional associations. Then they sit, gathering dust and guilt, for a period of time. When the layer of either is too great for comfort (or the desk space is needed for some proper work), the wrapper is removed and the journal scanned. But does how people read reflect their information needs or their entertainment requirements?
It is not uncommon to find people straying from the editorial introduction to the value added sections (like obituaries, Lucina‐like summary pages, and end‐of‐article fillers) rather than face the impenetrable science that sits between them. I think that this is probably unhelpful, and would urge readers to do one more thing before placing the journal in the recycling. Scan the table of contents; if it mentions a systematic review or a randomised trial, then read at least the title and the abstract's conclusions. If you agree, pat yourself warmly on the back for being evidence based and up‐to‐date. If you disagree, ask if it will make any impact on your clinical (or personal) life. If it might, run through the methods and quickly appraise them. Does it supply higher quality evidence than that you already possess? If it does, it's worth reading. If it doesn't, don't bother too much.
There are new innovations which might aid the tedious task of consuming research effort. The on‐line Précis section of the Archives provides a highly readable version of the contents page to whet one's appetite. Finally, it's worth mentioning that evidence based summary materials (like Archimedes, or Journal Watch) are always worth reading—and if you didn't think that you wouldn't be here, would you?
PMCID: PMC2082933
Archimedes; evidence based medicine
7.  Behavioural Interventions for Type 2 Diabetes 
Executive Summary
In June 2008, the Medical Advisory Secretariat began work on the Diabetes Strategy Evidence Project, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding strategies for successful management and treatment of diabetes. This project came about when the Health System Strategy Division at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care subsequently asked the secretariat to provide an evidentiary platform for the Ministry’s newly released Diabetes Strategy.
After an initial review of the strategy and consultation with experts, the secretariat identified five key areas in which evidence was needed. Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these five areas: insulin pumps, behavioural interventions, bariatric surgery, home telemonitoring, and community based care. For each area, an economic analysis was completed where appropriate and is described in a separate report.
To review these titles within the Diabetes Strategy Evidence series, please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site, http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html,
Diabetes Strategy Evidence Platform: Summary of Evidence-Based Analyses
Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion Pumps for Type 1 and Type 2 Adult Diabetics: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Behavioural Interventions for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Bariatric Surgery for People with Diabetes and Morbid Obesity: An Evidence-Based Summary
Community-Based Care for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telemonitoring for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Application of the Ontario Diabetes Economic Model (ODEM) to Determine the Cost-effectiveness and Budget Impact of Selected Type 2 Diabetes Interventions in Ontario
Objective
The objective of this report is to determine whether behavioural interventions1 are effective in improving glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.
Background
Diabetes is a serious chronic condition affecting millions of people worldwide and is the sixth leading cause of death in Canada. In 2005, an estimated 8.8% of Ontario’s population had diabetes, representing more than 816,000 Ontarians. The direct health care cost of diabetes was $1.76 billion in the year 2000 and is projected to rise to a total cost of $3.14 billion by 2016. Much of this cost arises from the serious long-term complications associated with the disease including: coronary heart disease, stroke, adult blindness, limb amputations and kidney disease.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90–95% of diabetes and while type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in people aged 40 years and older, prevalence in younger populations is increasing due to a rise in obesity and physical inactivity in children.
Data from the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) has shown that tight glycemic control can significantly reduce the risk of developing serious complications in type 2 diabetics. Despite physicians’ and patients’ knowledge of the importance of glycemic control, Canadian data has shown that only 38% of patients with diabetes have HbA1C levels in the optimal range of 7% or less. This statistic highlights the complexities involved in the management of diabetes, which is characterized by extensive patient involvement in addition to the support provided by physicians. An enormous demand is, therefore, placed on patients to self-manage the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of living with a chronic illness.
Despite differences in individual needs to cope with diabetes, there is general agreement for the necessity of supportive programs for patient self-management. While traditional programs were didactic models with the goal of improving patients’ knowledge of their disease, current models focus on behavioural approaches aimed at providing patients with the skills and strategies required to promote and change their behaviour.
Several meta-analyses and systematic reviews have demonstrated improved health outcomes with self-management support programs in type 2 diabetics. They have all, however, either looked at a specific component of self-management support programs (i.e. self-management education) or have been conducted in specific populations. Most reviews are also qualitative and do not clearly define the interventions of interest, making findings difficult to interpret. Moreover, heterogeneity in the interventions has led to conflicting evidence on the components of effective programs. There is thus much uncertainty regarding the optimal design and delivery of these programs by policymakers.
Evidence-Based Analysis of Effectiveness
Research Questions
Are behavioural interventions effective in improving glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes?
Is the effectiveness of the intervention impacted by intervention characteristics (e.g. delivery of intervention, length of intervention, mode of instruction, interventionist etc.)?
Inclusion Criteria
English Language
Published between January 1996 to August 2008
Type 2 diabetic adult population (>18 years)
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs)
Systematic reviews, or meta-analyses
Describing a multi-faceted self-management support intervention as defined by the 2007 Self-Management Mapping Guide (1)
Reporting outcomes of glycemic control (HbA1c) with extractable data
Studies with a minimum of 6-month follow up
Exclusion Criteria
Studies with a control group other than usual care
Studies with a sample size <30
Studies without a clearly defined intervention
Outcomes of Interest
Primary outcome: glycemic control (HbA1c)
Secondary outcomes: systolic blood pressure (SBP) control, lipid control, change in smoking status, weight change, quality of life, knowledge, self-efficacy, managing psychosocial aspects of diabetes, assessing dissatisfaction and readiness to change, and setting and achieving diabetes goals.
Search Strategy
A search was performed in OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), The Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published between January 1996 and August 2008. Abstracts were reviewed by a single author and studies meeting the inclusion criteria outlined above were obtained. Data on population characteristics, glycemic control outcomes, and study design were extracted. Reference lists were also checked for relevant studies. The quality of the evidence was assessed as being either high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE methodology.
Summary of Findings
The search identified 638 citations published between 1996 and August 2008, of which 12 met the inclusion criteria and one was a meta-analysis (Gary et al. 2003). The remaining 11 studies were RCTs (9 were used in the meta-analysis) and only one was defined as small (total sample size N=47).
Summary of Participant Demographics across studies
A total of 2,549 participants were included in the 11 identified studies. The mean age of participants reported was approximately 58 years and the mean duration of diabetes was approximately 6 years. Most studies reported gender with a mean percentage of females of approximately 67%. Of the eleven studies, two focused only on women and four included only Hispanic individuals. All studies evaluated type 2 diabetes patients exclusively.
Study Characteristics
The studies were conducted between 2002 and 2008. Approximately six of 11 studies were carried out within the USA, with the remaining studies conducted in the UK, Sweden, and Israel (sample size ranged from 47 to 824 participants). The quality of the studies ranged from moderate to low with four of the studies being of moderate quality and the remaining seven of low quality (based on the Consort Checklist). Differences in quality were mainly due to methodological issues such as inadequate description of randomization, sample size calculation allocation concealment, blinding and uncertainty of the use of intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis. Patients were recruited from several settings: six studies from primary or general medical practices, three studies from the community (e.g. via advertisements), and two from outpatient diabetes clinics. A usual care control group was reported in nine of 11 of the studies and two studies reported some type of minimal diabetes care in addition to usual care for the control group.
Intervention Characteristics
All of the interventions examined in the studies were mapped to the 2007 Self-management Mapping Guide. The interventions most often focused on problem solving, goal setting and encouraging participants to engage in activities that protect and promote health (e.g. modifying behaviour, change in diet, and increase physical activity). All of the studies examined comprehensive interventions targeted at least two self-care topics (e.g. diet, physical activity, blood glucose monitoring, foot care, etc.). Despite the homogeneity in the aims of the interventions, there was substantial clinical heterogeneity in other intervention characteristics such as duration, intensity, setting, mode of delivery (group vs. individual), interventionist, and outcomes of interest (discussed below).
Duration, Intensity and Mode of Delivery
Intervention durations ranged from 2 days to 1 year, with many falling into the range of 6 to 10 weeks. The rest of the interventions fell into categories of ≤ 2 weeks (2 studies), 6 months (2 studies), or 1 year (3 studies). Intensity of the interventions varied widely from 6 hours over 2 days, to 52 hours over 1 year; however, the majority consisted of interventions of 6 to 15 hours. Both individual and group sessions were used to deliver interventions. Group counselling was used in five studies as a mode of instruction, three studies used both individual and group sessions, and one study used individual sessions as its sole mode of instruction. Three studies also incorporated the use of telephone support as part of the intervention.
Interventionists and Setting
The following interventionists were reported (highest to lowest percentage, categories not mutually exclusive): nurse (36%), dietician (18%), physician (9%), pharmacist (9%), peer leader/community worker (18%), and other (36%). The ‘other’ category included interventionists such as consultants and facilitators with unspecified professional backgrounds. The setting of most interventions was community-based (seven studies), followed by primary care practices (three studies). One study described an intervention conducted in a pharmacy setting.
Outcomes
Duration of follow up of the studies ranged from 6 months to 8 years with a median follow-up duration of 12 months. Nine studies followed up patients at a minimum of two time points. Despite clear reporting of outcomes at follow up time points, there was poor reporting on whether the follow up was measured from participant entry into study or from end of intervention. All studies reported measures of glycemic control, specifically HbA1c levels. BMI was measured in five studies, while body weight was reported in two studies. Cholesterol was examined in three studies and blood pressure reduction in two. Smoking status was only examined in one of the studies. Additional outcomes examined in the trials included patient satisfaction, quality of life, diabetes knowledge, diabetes medication reduction, and behaviour modification (i.e. daily consumption of fruits/vegetables, exercise etc). Meta-analysis of the studies identified a moderate but significant reduction in HbA1c levels -0.44% 95%CI: -0.60, -0.29) for behavioural interventions in comparison to usual care for adults with type 2 diabetes. Subgroup analyses suggested the largest effects in interventions which were of at least duration and interventions in diabetics with higher baseline HbA1c (≥9.0). The quality of the evidence according to GRADE for the overall estimate was moderate and the quality of evidence for the subgroup analyses was identified as low.
Summary of Meta-Analysis of Studies Investigating the Effectiveness of Behavioural Interventions on HbA1c in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.
Based on one study
Conclusions
Based on moderate quality evidence, behavioural interventions as defined by the 2007 Self-management mapping guide (Government of Victoria, Australia) produce a moderate reduction in HbA1c levels in patients with type 2 diabetes compared with usual care.
Based on low quality evidence, the interventions with the largest effects are those:
- in diabetics with higher baseline HbA1c (≥9.0)
- in which the interventions were of at least 1 year in duration
PMCID: PMC3377516  PMID: 23074526
8.  Towards evidence‐based medicine for paediatricians 
To give the best care to patients and families, paediatricians need to integrate the highest quality scientific evidence with clinical expertise and the opinions of the family.1Archimedes seeks to assist practising clinicians by providing “evidence‐based” answers to common questions that are not at the forefront of research but are at the core of practice. In doing this, we are adapting a format that has been successfully developed by Kevin Mackway‐Jones and the group at the Emergency Medicine Journal—“BestBets”.
A word of warning. The topic summaries are not systematic reviews, although they are as exhaustive as a practising clinician can produce. They make no attempt to statistically aggregate the data, nor to search the grey, unpublished literature. What Archimedes offers is practical, best evidence‐based answers to practical, clinical questions.
The format of Archimedes may be familiar. A description of the clinical setting is followed by a structured clinical question. (These aid in focusing the mind, assisting searching2 and obtaining answers.3) A brief report of the search used follows—this has been performed in a hierarchical way, to search for the best quality evidence to answer the question (http://www.cebm.net). A table provides a summary of the evidence and key points of the critical appraisal. For further information on critical appraisal, and the measures of effect (such as the number needed to treat), books by Sackett4 and Moyer5 may help. To pull the information together, a commentary is provided, but to make it all much more accessible, a box provides the clinical bottom lines.
Electronics‐only topics that have been published on the BestBets site (www.bestbets.org) and may be of interest to paediatricians include the following.
Can steroids be used to reduce post tonsillectomy pain?
Readers wishing to submit their own questions—with best evidence answers—are encouraged to review those already proposed at www.bestbets.org. If your question still hasn't been answered, feel free to submit your summary according to the instructions for authors at www.archdischild.com. Three topics are covered in this issue of the journal:
Is teething the cause of minor ailments?
Should steroid creams be used in cases of labial fusion?
Does erythromycin cause pyloric stenosis?
References
1 Moyer VA, Ellior EJ. Preface. In: Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health. Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
2 Richardson WS, Wilson MC, Nishikawa J, et al. The well‐built clinical question: a key to evidence‐based decisions. ACP J Club 1995;123:A12–13.
3 Bergus GR, Randall CS, Sinift SD, et al. Does the structure of clinical questions affect the outcome of curbside consultations with specialty colleagues? Arch Fam Med 2000;9:541–7.
4 Sackett DL, Starus S, Richardson WS, et al. Evidence‐based medicine. How to practice and teach EBM. San Diego: Harcourt‐Brace, 2000.
5 Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health. Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
Can: doing, using and replicating evidence‐based child health
The practice of evidence‐based child health is said to be the five‐step way of asking questions, acquiring information, appraising the evidence, applying the results and assessing our performance.
If the truth be known, for the vast majority of the time, most of us perform our clinical practice replicating what we have done previously. Most of the time this is based on the combination of excellent education, skilled interpretation of clinical findings, and good discussions with children and families. We hope that the education we rely on was (and remains) based on the best available scientific evidence. If it is, we are practising a form of “micro‐evidence‐based healthcare (EBHC)” (doing just step 4).
Sometimes, we question our knowledge (or more uncomfortably, someone does this for us), and will head off to top up our understanding of an area. This “using” mode, if we use well‐appraised resources to supply our thirst for information, will also promote the practice of evidence‐based care. This midi‐EBHC asks us to go through steps 1, 2 and 4.
Occasionally, we also actually need to go through the entire process of getting “down and dirty” with the primary research and appraising it to influence our practice. Maxi‐EBHC is considerably more demanding in time, but largely more satisfying intellectually.
If we reframe the practice of EBHC as using the family and child values, the best evidence, and our clinical expertise, then we can do it by micro‐methods, midi‐methods or maxi‐methods, and choose the most appropriate approach for the situation we confront.
Acknowledgement
I thank Dr Sharon Straus, Director of the Center for Evidence‐based Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
doi:10.1136/adc.2006.110080
PMCID: PMC2083440
9.  Community-Based Care for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes 
Executive Summary
In June 2008, the Medical Advisory Secretariat began work on the Diabetes Strategy Evidence Project, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding strategies for successful management and treatment of diabetes. This project came about when the Health System Strategy Division at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care subsequently asked the secretariat to provide an evidentiary platform for the Ministry’s newly released Diabetes Strategy.
After an initial review of the strategy and consultation with experts, the secretariat identified five key areas in which evidence was needed. Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these five areas: insulin pumps, behavioural interventions, bariatric surgery, home telemonitoring, and community based care. For each area, an economic analysis was completed where appropriate and is described in a separate report.
To review these titles within the Diabetes Strategy Evidence series, please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site, http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html,
Diabetes Strategy Evidence Platform: Summary of Evidence-Based Analyses
Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion Pumps for Type 1 and Type 2 Adult Diabetics: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Behavioural Interventions for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Bariatric Surgery for People with Diabetes and Morbid Obesity: An Evidence-Based Summary
Community-Based Care for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telemonitoring for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Application of the Ontario Diabetes Economic Model (ODEM) to Determine the Cost-effectiveness and Budget Impact of Selected Type 2 Diabetes Interventions in Ontario
Objective
The objective of this report is to determine the efficacy of specialized multidisciplinary community care for the management of type 2 diabetes compared to usual care.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Diabetes (i.e. diabetes mellitus) is a highly prevalent chronic metabolic disorder that interferes with the body’s ability to produce or effectively use insulin. The majority (90%) of diabetes patients have type 2 diabetes. (1) Based on the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS), intensive blood glucose and blood pressure control significantly reduce the risk of microvascular and macrovascular complications in type 2 diabetics. While many studies have documented that patients often do not meet the glycemic control targets specified by national and international guidelines, factors associated with glycemic control are less well studied, one of which is the provider(s) of care.
Multidisciplinary approaches to care may be particularly important for diabetes management. According guidelines from the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), the diabetes health care team should be multi-and interdisciplinary. Presently in Ontario, the core diabetes health care team consists of at least a family physician and/or diabetes specialist, and diabetes educators (registered nurse and registered dietician).
Increasing the role played by allied health care professionals in diabetes care and their collaboration with physicians may represent a more cost-effective option for diabetes management. Several systematic reviews and meta-analyses have examined multidisciplinary care programs, but these have either been limited to a specific component of multidisciplinary care (e.g. intensified education programs), or were conducted as part of a broader disease management program, of which not all were multidisciplinary in nature. Most reviews also do not clearly define the intervention(s) of interest, making the evaluation of such multidisciplinary community programs challenging.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
Research Questions
What is the evidence of efficacy of specialized multidisciplinary community care provided by at least a registered nurse, registered dietician and physician (primary care and/or specialist) for the management of type 2 diabetes compared to usual care? [Henceforth referred to as Model 1]
What is the evidence of efficacy of specialized multidisciplinary community care provided by at least a pharmacist and a primary care physician for the management of type 2 diabetes compared to usual care? [Henceforth referred to as Model 2]
Inclusion Criteria
English language full-reports
Published between January 1, 2000 and September 28, 2008
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses
Type 2 diabetic adult population (≥18 years of age)
Total sample size ≥30
Describe specialized multidisciplinary community care defined as ambulatory-based care provided by at least two health care disciplines (of which at least one must be a specialist in diabetes) with integrated communication between the care providers.
Compared to usual care (defined as health care provision by non-specialist(s) in diabetes, such as primary care providers; may include referral to other health care professionals/services as necessary)
≥6 months follow-up
Exclusion Criteria
Studies where discrete results on diabetes cannot be abstracted
Predominantly home-based interventions
Inpatient-based interventions
Outcomes of Interest
The primary outcomes for this review were glycosylated hemoglobin (rHbA1c) levels and systolic blood pressure (SBP).
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on September 28, 2008 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published between January 1, 2000 and September 28, 2008. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Given the high clinical heterogeneity of the articles that met the inclusion criteria, specific models of specialized multidisciplinary community care were examined based on models of care that are currently being supported in Ontario, models of care that were commonly reported in the literature, as well as suggestions from an Expert Advisory Panel Meeting held on January 21, 2009.
Summary of Findings
The initial search yielded 2,116 unique citations, from which 22 RCTs trials and nine systematic reviews published were identified as meeting the eligibility criteria. Of these, five studies focused on care provided by at least a nurse, dietician, and physician (primary care and/or specialist) model of care (Model 1; see Table ES 1), while three studies focused on care provided by at least a pharmacist and primary care physician (Model 2; see Table ES 2).
Based on moderate quality evidence, specialized multidisciplinary community care Model 2 has demonstrated a statistically and clinically significant reduction in HbA1c of 1.0% compared with usual care. The effects of this model on SBP, however, are uncertain compared with usual care, based on very-low quality evidence. Specialized multidisciplinary community care Model 2 has demonstrated a statistically and clinically significant reduction in both HbA1c of 1.05% (based on high quality evidence) and SBP of 7.13 mm Hg (based on moderate quality evidence) compared to usual care. For both models, the evidence does not suggest a preferred setting of care delivery (i.e., primary care vs. hospital outpatient clinic vs. community clinic).
Summary of Results of Meta-Analyses of the Effects of Multidisciplinary Care Model 1
Mean change from baseline to follow-up between intervention and control groups
Summary of Results of Meta-Analyses of the Effects of Multidisciplinary Care Model 2
Mean change from baseline to follow-up between intervention and control groups
PMCID: PMC3377524  PMID: 23074528
10.  Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and Termination of Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001581.
Lucy Chappell and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta analysis to investigate a possible association between intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (IPV) and termination of pregnancy (TOP) are global health concerns, but their interaction is undetermined. The aim of this study was to determine whether there is an association between IPV and TOP.
Methods and Findings
A systematic review based on a search of Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Ovid Maternity and Infant Care from each database's inception to 21 September 2013 for peer-reviewed articles of any design and language found 74 studies regarding women who had undergone TOP and had experienced at least one domain (physical, sexual, or emotional) of IPV. Prevalence of IPV and association between IPV and TOP were meta-analysed. Sample sizes ranged from eight to 33,385 participants. Worldwide, rates of IPV in the preceding year in women undergoing TOP ranged from 2.5% to 30%. Lifetime prevalence by meta-analysis was shown to be 24.9% (95% CI 19.9% to 30.6%); heterogeneity was high (I2>90%), and variation was not explained by study design, quality, or size, or country gross national income per capita. IPV, including history of rape, sexual assault, contraceptive sabotage, and coerced decision-making, was associated with TOP, and with repeat TOPs. By meta-analysis, partner not knowing about the TOP was shown to be significantly associated with IPV (pooled odds ratio 2.97, 95% CI 2.39 to 3.69). Women in violent relationships were more likely to have concealed the TOP from their partner than those who were not. Demographic factors including age, ethnicity, education, marital status, income, employment, and drug and alcohol use showed no strong or consistent mediating effect. Few long-term outcomes were studied. Women welcomed the opportunity to disclose IPV and be offered help. Limitations include study heterogeneity, potential underreporting of both IPV and TOP in primary data sources, and inherent difficulties in validation.
Conclusions
IPV is associated with TOP. Novel public health approaches are required to prevent IPV. TOP services provide an opportune health-based setting to design and test interventions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (sometimes referred to as domestic violence) is one of the commonest forms of violence against women and is a global health problem. The World Health Organization defines intimate partner violence as any act of physical, psychological, or sexual aggression or any controlling behavior (for example, restriction of access to assistance) perpetrated by the woman's current or past intimate partner. Although men also experience it, intimate partner violence is overwhelmingly experienced by women, particularly when repeated or severe. Studies indicate that the prevalence (the percentage of a population affected by a condition) of intimate partner violence varies widely within and between countries: the prevalence of intimate partner violence among women ranges from 15% in Japan to 71% in Ethiopia, and the lifetime prevalence of rape (forced sex) within intimate relationships ranges from 5.9% to 42% across the world, for example. Overall, a third of women experience intimate partner violence at some time during their lifetimes. The health consequences of such violence include physical injury, depression, suicidal behavior, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Why Was This Study Done?
Intimate partner violence can also lead to gynecological disorders (conditions affecting the female reproductive organs), unwanted pregnancy, premature labour and birth, and sexually transmitted infections. Because violence may begin or intensify during pregnancy, some countries recommend routine questioning about intimate partner violence during antenatal care. However, women seeking termination of pregnancy (induced abortion) are not routinely asked about intimate partner violence. Every year, many women worldwide terminate a pregnancy. Nearly half of these terminations are unsafe, and complications arising from unsafe abortions are responsible for more than 10% of maternal deaths (deaths from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications). It is important to know whether intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy are associated in order to develop effective strategies to deal with both these global health concerns. Here, the researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the associations between intimate partner violence and termination or pregnancy. A systematic review identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria; meta-analysis combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 74 studies that provided information about experiences of intimate partner violence among women who had had a termination of pregnancy. Data in these studies indicated that, worldwide, intimate partner violence rates among women undergoing termination ranged from 2.5% to 30% in the preceding year and from 14% to 40% over their lifetime. In the meta-analysis, the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence was 24.9% among termination-seeking populations. The identified studies provided evidence that intimate partner violence was associated with termination and with repeat termination. In one study, for example, women presenting for a third termination were more than two and a half times more likely to have a history of physical or sexual violence than women presenting for their first termination. Moreover, according to the meta-analysis, women in violent relationships were three times as likely to conceal a termination from their partner as women in non-violent relationships. Finally, the studies indicated that women undergoing terminations of pregnancy welcomed the opportunity to disclose their experiences of intimate partner violence and to be offered help.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that intimate partner violence is associated with termination of pregnancy and that a woman's partner not knowing about the termination is a risk factor for intimate partner violence among women seeking termination. Overall, the researchers' findings support the concept that violence can lead to pregnancy and to subsequent termination of pregnancy, and that there may be a repetitive cycle of abuse and pregnancy. The accuracy of these findings is limited by heterogeneity (variability) among the included studies, by the likelihood of underreporting of both intimate partner violence and termination in the included studies, and by lack of validation of reports of violence through, for example, police reports. Nevertheless, health-care professionals should consider the possibility that women seeking termination of pregnancy may be experiencing intimate partner violence. In trying to prevent repeat terminations, health-care professionals should be aware that while focusing on preventing conception may reduce the chances of a woman becoming pregnant, she may still be vulnerable to abuse. Finally, given the clear associations between intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy, the researchers suggest that termination services represent an appropriate setting in which to test interventions designed to reduce intimate partner violence.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001581.
The World Health organization provides detailed information about intimate partner violence and about termination of pregnancy (some information available in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about intimate partner violence and about termination of pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The World Bank has a webpage that discusses the role of the health sector in preventing gender-based violence and a webpage with links to other resources about gender-based violence
The Gender and Health Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council provides links to further resources about intimate partner violence (research briefs/policy briefs/fact sheets/research reports)
DIVERHSE (Domestic & Interpersonal Violence: Effecting Responses in the Health Sector in Europe) is a European forum for health professionals, nongovernmental organizations, policy-makers, and academics to share their expertise and good practice in developing and evaluating interventions to address violence against women and children in a variety of health-care settings
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Gender Violence and Health Centre also has a number of research resources
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides personal stories of intimate partner violence during pregnancy
The March of Dimes provides information on identifying intimate partner violence during pregnancy and making a safety plan
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001581
PMCID: PMC3883805  PMID: 24409101
11.  Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis: Understanding the Best Evidence in Primary Healthcare 
Healthcare decisions for individual patients and for public health policies should be informed by the best available research evidence. The practice of evidence-based medicine is the integration of individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research and patient's values and expectations. Primary care physicians need evidence for both clinical practice and for public health decision making. The evidence comes from good reviews which is a state-of-the-art synthesis of current evidence on a given research question. Given the explosion of medical literature, and the fact that time is always scarce, review articles play a vital role in decision making in evidence-based medical practice. Given that most clinicians and public health professionals do not have the time to track down all the original articles, critically read them, and obtain the evidence they need for their questions, systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines may be their best source of evidence. Systematic reviews aim to identify, evaluate, and summarize the findings of all relevant individual studies over a health-related issue, thereby making the available evidence more accessible to decision makers. The objective of this article is to introduce the primary care physicians about the concept of systematic reviews and meta-analysis, outlining why they are important, describing their methods and terminologies used, and thereby helping them with the skills to recognize and understand a reliable review which will be helpful for their day-to-day clinical practice and research activities.
doi:10.4103/2249-4863.109934
PMCID: PMC3894019  PMID: 24479036
Evidence-based medicine; meta-analysis; primary care; systematic review
12.  Reporting Guidelines for Survey Research: An Analysis of Published Guidance and Reporting Practices 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(8):e1001069.
Carol Bennett and colleagues review the evidence and find that there is limited guidance and no consensus on the optimal reporting of survey research.
Background
Research needs to be reported transparently so readers can critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the design, conduct, and analysis of studies. Reporting guidelines have been developed to inform reporting for a variety of study designs. The objective of this study was to identify whether there is a need to develop a reporting guideline for survey research.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a three-part project: (1) a systematic review of the literature (including “Instructions to Authors” from the top five journals of 33 medical specialties and top 15 general and internal medicine journals) to identify guidance for reporting survey research; (2) a systematic review of evidence on the quality of reporting of surveys; and (3) a review of reporting of key quality criteria for survey research in 117 recently published reports of self-administered surveys. Fewer than 7% of medical journals (n = 165) provided guidance to authors on survey research despite a majority having published survey-based studies in recent years. We identified four published checklists for conducting or reporting survey research, none of which were validated. We identified eight previous reviews of survey reporting quality, which focused on issues of non-response and accessibility of questionnaires. Our own review of 117 published survey studies revealed that many items were poorly reported: few studies provided the survey or core questions (35%), reported the validity or reliability of the instrument (19%), defined the response rate (25%), discussed the representativeness of the sample (11%), or identified how missing data were handled (11%).
Conclusions
There is limited guidance and no consensus regarding the optimal reporting of survey research. The majority of key reporting criteria are poorly reported in peer-reviewed survey research articles. Our findings highlight the need for clear and consistent reporting guidelines specific to survey research.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Surveys, or questionnaires, are an essential component of many types of research, including health, and usually gather information by asking a sample of people questions on a specific topic and then generalizing the results to a larger population. Surveys are especially important when addressing topics that are difficult to assess using other approaches and usually rely on self reporting, for example self-reported behaviors, such as eating habits, satisfaction, beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, opinions. However, the methods used in conducting survey research can significantly affect the reliability, validity, and generalizability of study results, and without clear reporting of the methods used in surveys, it is difficult or impossible to assess these characteristics and therefore to have confidence in the findings.
Why Was This Study Done?
This uncertainty in other forms of research has given rise to Reporting Guidelines—evidence-based, validated tools that aim to improve the reporting quality of health research. The STROBE (STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology) Statement includes cross-sectional studies, which often involve surveys. But not all surveys are epidemiological, and STROBE does not include methods' and results' reporting characteristics that are unique to surveys. Therefore, the researchers conducted this study to help determine whether there is a need for a reporting guideline for health survey research.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified any previous relevant guidance for survey research, and any evidence on the quality of reporting of survey research, by: reviewing current guidance for reporting survey research in the “Instructions to Authors” of leading medical journals and in published literature; conducting a systematic review of evidence on the quality of reporting of surveys; identifying key quality criteria for the conduct of survey research; and finally, reviewing how these criteria are currently reported by conducting a review of recently published reports of self-administered surveys.
The researchers found that 154 of the 165 journals searched (93.3%) did not provide any guidance on survey reporting, even though the majority (81.8%) have published survey research. Only three of the 11 journals that provided some guidance gave more than one directive or statement. Five papers and one Internet site provided guidance on the reporting of survey research, but none used validated measures or explicit methods for development. The researchers identified eight papers that addressed the quality of reporting of some aspect of survey research: the reporting of response rates; the reporting of non-response analyses in survey research; and the degree to which authors make their survey instrument available to readers. In their review of 117 published survey studies, the researchers found that many items were poorly reported: few studies provided the survey or core questions (35%), reported the validity or reliability of the instrument (19%), discussed the representativeness of the sample (11%), or identified how missing data were handled (11%). Furthermore, (88 [75%]) did not include any information on consent procedures for research participants, and one-third (40 [34%]) of papers did not report whether the study had received research ethics board review.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Overall, these results show that guidance is limited and consensus lacking about the optimal reporting of survey research, and they highlight the need for a well-developed reporting guideline specifically for survey research—possibly an extension of the guideline for observational studies in epidemiology (STROBE)—that will provide the structure to ensure more complete reporting and allow clearer review and interpretation of the results from surveys.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001069.
More than 100 reporting guidelines covering a broad spectrum of research types are indexed on the EQUATOR Networks web site
More information about STROBE is available on the STROBE Statement web site
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001069
PMCID: PMC3149080  PMID: 21829330
13.  Epidermal growth factor receptor targeted therapy in stages III and IV head and neck cancer 
Current Oncology  2010;17(3):37-48.
Question
What are the benefits associated with the use of anti–epidermal growth factor receptor (anti-egfr) therapies in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (hnscc)? Anti-egfr therapies of interest included cetuximab, gefitinib, lapatinib, zalutumumab, erlotinib, and panitumumab.
Perspectives
Head-and-neck cancer includes malignant tumours arising from a variety of sites in the upper aerodigestive tract. The most common histologic type is squamous cell carcinoma, and most common sites are the oral cavity, the oropharynx, the hypopharynx, and the larynx. Worldwide, hnscc is the sixth most common neoplasm, and despite advances in therapy, long-term survival in hnscc patients is poor. Primary surgery followed by chemoradiation, or primary chemoradiation, are the standard treatment options for patients with locally advanced (stages iii–ivb) hnscc; however, meta-analytic data indicate that the benefit of concurrent platinum-based chemotherapy disappears in patients over the age of 70 years.
Cetuximab is a monoclonal antibody approved for use in combination with radiation in the treatment of patients with untreated locally advanced hnscc and as monotherapy for patients with recurrent or metastatic (stage ivc) hnscc who have progressed on platinum-based therapy.
Given the interest in anti-egfr agents in advanced hnscc, the Head and Neck Cancer Disease Site Group (dsg) of Cancer Care Ontario’s Program in Evidence-Based Care (pebc) chose to systematically review the literature pertaining to this topic so as to develop evidence-based recommendations for treatment.
Outcomes
Outcomes of interest included overall and progression-free survival, quality of life, tumour response rate and duration, and the toxicity associated with the use of anti-egfr therapies.
Methodology
The medline, embase, and Cochrane Library databases, the American Society of Clinical Oncology online conference proceedings, the Canadian Medical Association InfoBase, and the National Guidelines Clearinghouse were systematically searched to locate primary articles and practice guidelines. The reference lists from relevant review articles were searched for additional trials. All evidence was reviewed, and that evidence informed the development of the clinical practice guideline. The resulting recommendations were approved by the Report Approval Panel of the pebc, and by the Head and Neck Cancer dsg. An external review by Ontario practitioners completed the final phase of the review process. Feedback from all parties was incorporated to create the final practice guideline.
Results
The electronic search identified seventy-four references that were reviewed for inclusion. Only four phase iii trials met the inclusion criteria for the present guideline. No practice guidelines, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses were found during the course of the literature search.
The randomized controlled trials (rcts) involved three distinct patient populations: those with locally advanced hnscc being treated for cure, those with incurable advanced recurrent or metastatic hnscc being treated with first-line platinum-based chemotherapy, and those with incurable advanced recurrent or metastatic hnscc who had disease progression despite, or who were unsuitable for, first-line platinum-based chemotherapy.
Practice Guideline
These recommendations apply to adult patients with locally advanced (nonmetastatic stages iii–ivb) or recurrent or metastatic (stage ivc) hnscc.
Platinum-based chemoradiation remains the current standard of care for treatment of locally advanced hnscc.
In patients with locally advanced hnscc who are medically unsuitable for concurrent platinumbased chemotherapy or who are over the age of 70 years (because concurrent chemotherapy does not appear to improve overall survival in this patient population), the addition of cetuximab to radical radiotherapy should be considered to improve overall survival, progression-free survival, and time to local recurrence.
Cetuximab in combination with platinum-based combination chemotherapy is superior to chemotherapy alone in patients with recurrent or metastatic hnscc, and is recommended to improve overall survival, progression-free survival, and response rate.
The role of anti-egfr therapies in the treatment of locally advanced hnscc is currently under study in large randomized trials, and patients with hnscc should continue to be offered clinical trials of novel agents aimed at improving outcomes.
Qualifying Statements
Chemoradiation is the current standard of care for patients with locally advanced hnscc, and to date, there is no evidence that compares cetuximab plus radiotherapy with chemoradiation, or that examines whether the addition of cetuximab to chemoradiation is of benefit in these patients. However, five ongoing trials are investigating the effect of the addition of egfr inhibitors concurrently with, before, or after chemoradiotherapy; those trials should provide direction about the best integration of cetuximab into standard treatment.
In patients with recurrent or metastatic hnscc who experience progressive disease despite, or who are unsuitable for, first-line platinum-based chemotherapy, gefitinib at doses of 250 mg or 500 mg daily, compared with weekly methotrexate, did not increase median overall survival [hazard ratio (hr): 1.22; 96% confidence interval (ci): 0.95 to 1.57; p = 0.12 (for 250 mg daily vs. weekly methotrexate); hr: 1.12; 95% ci: 0.87 to 1.43; p = 0.39 (for 500 mg daily vs. weekly methotrexate)] or objective response rate (2.7% for 250 mg and 7.6% for 500 mg daily vs. 3.9% for weekly methotrexate, p > 0.05). As compared with methotrexate, gefitinib was associated with an increased incidence of tumour hemorrhage (8.9% for 250 mg and 11.4% for 500 mg daily vs. 1.9% for weekly methotrexate).
PMCID: PMC2880902  PMID: 20567625
Head-and-neck cancer; epidermal growth factor receptor; egfr inhibitors; overall survival; progression-free survival; tumour response rate
14.  Information from Pharmaceutical Companies and the Quality, Quantity, and Cost of Physicians' Prescribing: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000352.
Geoff Spurling and colleagues report findings of a systematic review looking at the relationship between exposure to promotional material from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of prescribing. They fail to find evidence of improvements in prescribing after exposure, and find some evidence of an association with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality.
Background
Pharmaceutical companies spent $57.5 billion on pharmaceutical promotion in the United States in 2004. The industry claims that promotion provides scientific and educational information to physicians. While some evidence indicates that promotion may adversely influence prescribing, physicians hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. The objective of this review is to examine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
Methods and Findings
We searched for studies of physicians with prescribing rights who were exposed to information from pharmaceutical companies (promotional or otherwise). Exposures included pharmaceutical sales representative visits, journal advertisements, attendance at pharmaceutical sponsored meetings, mailed information, prescribing software, and participation in sponsored clinical trials. The outcomes measured were quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing. We searched Medline (1966 to February 2008), International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (1970 to February 2008), Embase (1997 to February 2008), Current Contents (2001 to 2008), and Central (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2007) using the search terms developed with an expert librarian. Additionally, we reviewed reference lists and contacted experts and pharmaceutical companies for information. Randomized and observational studies evaluating information from pharmaceutical companies and measures of physicians' prescribing were independently appraised for methodological quality by two authors. Studies were excluded where insufficient study information precluded appraisal. The full text of 255 articles was retrieved from electronic databases (7,185 studies) and other sources (138 studies). Articles were then excluded because they did not fulfil inclusion criteria (179) or quality appraisal criteria (18), leaving 58 included studies with 87 distinct analyses. Data were extracted independently by two authors and a narrative synthesis performed following the MOOSE guidelines. Of the set of studies examining prescribing quality outcomes, five found associations between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and lower quality prescribing, four did not detect an association, and one found associations with lower and higher quality prescribing. 38 included studies found associations between exposure and higher frequency of prescribing and 13 did not detect an association. Five included studies found evidence for association with higher costs, four found no association, and one found an association with lower costs. The narrative synthesis finding of variable results was supported by a meta-analysis of studies of prescribing frequency that found significant heterogeneity. The observational nature of most included studies is the main limitation of this review.
Conclusions
With rare exceptions, studies of exposure to information provided directly by pharmaceutical companies have found associations with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality or have not found significant associations. We did not find evidence of net improvements in prescribing, but the available literature does not exclude the possibility that prescribing may sometimes be improved. Still, we recommend that practitioners follow the precautionary principle and thus avoid exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A prescription drug is a medication that can be supplied only with a written instruction (“prescription”) from a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. In 2009, 3.9 billion drug prescriptions were dispensed in the US alone and US pharmaceutical companies made US$300 billion in sales revenue. Every year, a large proportion of this revenue is spent on drug promotion. In 2004, for example, a quarter of US drug revenue was spent on pharmaceutical promotion. The pharmaceutical industry claims that drug promotion—visits from pharmaceutical sales representatives, advertisements in journals and prescribing software, sponsorship of meetings, mailed information—helps to inform and educate healthcare professionals about the risks and benefits of their products and thereby ensures that patients receive the best possible care. Physicians, however, hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. Some see it as a useful and convenient source of information. Others deny that they are influenced by pharmaceutical company promotion but claim that it influences other physicians. Meanwhile, several professional organizations have called for tighter control of promotional activities because of fears that pharmaceutical promotion might encourage physicians to prescribe inappropriate or needlessly expensive drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
But is there any evidence that pharmaceutical promotion adversely influences prescribing? Reviews of the research literature undertaken in 2000 and 2005 provide some evidence that drug promotion influences prescribing behavior. However, these reviews only partly assessed the relationship between information from pharmaceutical companies and prescribing costs and quality and are now out of date. In this study, therefore, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) to reexamine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the literature for studies of licensed physicians who were exposed to promotional and other information from pharmaceutical companies. They identified 58 studies that included a measure of exposure to any type of information directly provided by pharmaceutical companies and a measure of physicians' prescribing behavior. They then undertook a “narrative synthesis,” a descriptive analysis of the data in these studies. Ten of the studies, they report, examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing quality (as judged, for example, by physician drug choices in response to clinical vignettes). All but one of these studies suggested that exposure to drug company information was associated with lower prescribing quality or no association was detected. In the 51 studies that examined the relationship between exposure to drug company information and prescribing frequency, exposure to information was associated with more frequent prescribing or no association was detected. Thus, for example, 17 out of 29 studies of the effect of pharmaceutical sales representatives' visits found an association between visits and increased prescribing; none found an association with less frequent prescribing. Finally, eight studies examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing costs. With one exception, these studies indicated that exposure to information was associated with a higher cost of prescribing or no association was detected. So, for example, one study found that physicians with low prescribing costs were more likely to have rarely or never read promotional mail or journal advertisements from pharmaceutical companies than physicians with high prescribing costs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
With rare exceptions, these findings suggest that exposure to pharmaceutical company information is associated with either no effect on physicians' prescribing behavior or with adverse affects (reduced quality, increased frequency, or increased costs). Because most of the studies included in the review were observational studies—the physicians in the studies were not randomly selected to receive or not receive drug company information—it is not possible to conclude that exposure to information actually causes any changes in physician behavior. Furthermore, although these findings provide no evidence for any net improvement in prescribing after exposure to pharmaceutical company information, the researchers note that it would be wrong to conclude that improvements do not sometimes happen. The findings support the case for reforms to reduce negative influence to prescribing from pharmaceutical promotion.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352.
Wikipedia has pages on prescription drugs and on pharmaceutical marketing (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK General Medical Council provides guidelines on good practice in prescribing medicines
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information on prescription drugs and on its Bad Ad Program
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
The Drug Promotion Database was developed by the World Health Organization Department of Essential Drugs & Medicines Policy and Health Action International Europe to address unethical and inappropriate drug promotion
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352
PMCID: PMC2957394  PMID: 20976098
15.  RAMESES publication standards: meta-narrative reviews 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:20.
Background
Meta-narrative review is one of an emerging menu of new approaches to qualitative and mixed-method systematic review. A meta-narrative review seeks to illuminate a heterogeneous topic area by highlighting the contrasting and complementary ways in which researchers have studied the same or a similar topic. No previous publication standards exist for the reporting of meta-narrative reviews. This publication standard was developed as part of the RAMESES (Realist And MEta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards) project. The project's aim is to produce preliminary publication standards for meta-narrative reviews.
Methods
We (a) collated and summarized existing literature on the principles of good practice in meta-narrative reviews; (b) considered the extent to which these principles had been followed by published reviews, thereby identifying how rigor may be lost and how existing methods could be improved; (c) used a three-round online Delphi method with an interdisciplinary panel of national and international experts in evidence synthesis, meta-narrative reviews, policy and/or publishing to produce and iteratively refine a draft set of methodological steps and publication standards; (d) provided real-time support to ongoing meta-narrative reviews and the open-access RAMESES online discussion list so as to capture problems and questions as they arose; and (e) synthesized expert input, evidence review and real-time problem analysis into a definitive set of standards.
Results
We identified nine published meta-narrative reviews, provided real-time support to four ongoing reviews and captured questions raised in the RAMESES discussion list. Through analysis and discussion within the project team, we summarized the published literature, and common questions and challenges into briefing materials for the Delphi panel, comprising 33 members. Within three rounds this panel had reached consensus on 20 key publication standards, with an overall response rate of 90%.
Conclusion
This project used multiple sources to draw together evidence and expertise in meta-narrative reviews. For each item we have included an explanation for why it is important and guidance on how it might be reported. Meta-narrative review is a relatively new method for evidence synthesis and as experience and methodological developments occur, we anticipate that these standards will evolve to reflect further theoretical and methodological developments. We hope that these standards will act as a resource that will contribute to improving the reporting of meta-narrative reviews.
To encourage dissemination of the RAMESES publication standards, this article is co-published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing and is freely accessible on Wiley Online Library (http://www.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jan).
Please see related articles http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/21 and http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/22
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-20
PMCID: PMC3558334  PMID: 23360661
meta-narrative review; meta-narrative synthesis; publication standards
16.  Commercial Serological Tests for the Diagnosis of Active Pulmonary and Extrapulmonary Tuberculosis: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(8):e1001062.
An up-to-date systematic review and meta-analysis by Karen Steingart and colleagues confirms that commercially available serological tests do not provide an accurate diagnosis of tuberculosis.
Background
Serological (antibody detection) tests for tuberculosis (TB) are widely used in developing countries. As part of a World Health Organization policy process, we performed an updated systematic review to assess the diagnostic accuracy of commercial serological tests for pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB with a focus on the relevance of these tests in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods and Findings
We used methods recommended by the Cochrane Collaboration and GRADE approach for rating quality of evidence. In a previous review, we searched multiple databases for papers published from 1 January 1990 to 30 May 2006, and in this update, we add additional papers published from that period until 29 June 2010. We prespecified subgroups to address heterogeneity and summarized test performance using bivariate random effects meta-analysis. For pulmonary TB, we included 67 studies (48% from low- and middle-income countries) with 5,147 participants. For all tests, estimates were variable for sensitivity (0% to 100%) and specificity (31% to 100%). For anda-TB IgG, the only test with enough studies for meta-analysis, pooled sensitivity was 76% (95% CI 63%–87%) in smear-positive (seven studies) and 59% (95% CI 10%–96%) in smear-negative (four studies) patients; pooled specificities were 92% (95% CI 74%–98%) and 91% (95% CI 79%–96%), respectively. Compared with ELISA (pooled sensitivity 60% [95% CI 6%–65%]; pooled specificity 98% [95% CI 96%–99%]), immunochromatographic tests yielded lower pooled sensitivity (53%, 95% CI 42%–64%) and comparable pooled specificity (98%, 95% CI 94%–99%). For extrapulmonary TB, we included 25 studies (40% from low- and middle-income countries) with 1,809 participants. For all tests, estimates were variable for sensitivity (0% to 100%) and specificity (59% to 100%). Overall, quality of evidence was graded very low for studies of pulmonary and extrapulmonary TB.
Conclusions
Despite expansion of the literature since 2006, commercial serological tests continue to produce inconsistent and imprecise estimates of sensitivity and specificity. Quality of evidence remains very low. These data informed a recently published World Health Organization policy statement against serological tests.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year nearly 10 million people develop tuberculosis—a contagious bacterial infection—and about two million people die from the disease. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, is spread in airborne droplets when people with the disease cough or sneeze. It usually infects the lungs (pulmonary tuberculosis) but can also infect the lymph nodes, bones, and other tissues (extrapulmonary tuberculosis). The characteristic symptoms of tuberculosis are a persistent cough, weight loss, and night sweats. Diagnostic tests for the disease include microscopic examination of sputum (mucus brought up from the lungs by coughing) for M. tuberculosis bacilli, chest radiography, mycobacterial culture (in which bacteriologists try to grow M. tuberculosis from sputum or tissue samples), and nucleic acid amplification tests (which detect the bacterium's genome in patient samples). Tuberculosis can usually be cured by taking several powerful drugs daily or several times a week for at least six months.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although efforts to control tuberculosis have advanced over the past decade, missed tuberculosis diagnoses and mismanaged tuberculosis continue to fuel the global epidemic. A missed diagnosis may lead to more severe illness and death, especially for people infected with both tuberculosis and HIV. Also, a missed diagnosis means that an untreated individual with pulmonary tuberculosis may remain infectious for longer, continuing to spread tuberculosis within the community Missed diagnoses are a particular problem in resource-limited countries where sputum microscopy and chest radiography often perform poorly and other diagnostic tests are too expensive and complex for routine use. Serological tests, which detect antibodies against M. tuberculosis in the blood (antibodies are proteins made by the immune system in response to infections), might provide a way to diagnose tuberculosis in resource-limited countries. Indeed, many serological tests for tuberculosis diagnosis are on sale in developing countries. However, because of doubts about the accuracy of these commercial tests, they are not recommended for use in routine practice. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, the researchers assess the diagnostic accuracy of commercial serological tests for pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; meta-analysis is a statistical method that combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the literature for studies that evaluated serological tests for active tuberculosis published between 1990 and 2010. They used data from these studies to calculate each test's sensitivity (the proportion of patients with a positive serological test among patients with tuberculosis confirmed by a reference method; a high sensitivity indicates that the test detects most patients with tuberculosis) and specificity (the proportion of patients with a negative serological result among people without tuberculosis; a high specificity means the test gives few false-positive diagnoses). They also assessed the methodological quality of each study and rated the overall quality of the evidence. The researchers found 67 studies (half from low/middle-income countries) that evaluated serological tests for the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis. The sensitivity of these tests varied between studies, ranging from 0% to 100%; their specificities ranged from 31% to 100%. For the anda-TB IgG test—the only test with sufficient studies for a meta-analysis—the pooled sensitivity from the relevant studies was 76% in smear-positive patients and 59% in smear-negative patients. The pooled specificities were 92% and 91%, respectively. The researchers found 25 studies (40% from low/middle-income countries) that evaluated serological tests for the diagnosis of extrapulmonary tuberculosis. Again, sensitivities and specificities for each test varied greatly between studies, ranging from 0% to 100% and 59% to 100%, respectively. Overall, for both pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis, the quality of evidence from the studies of the serological tests was graded very low.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review, which updates an analysis published in 2007, indicates that commercial serological tests do not provide an accurate diagnosis of tuberculosis. This finding confirms previous systematic reviews of the evidence, despite a recent expansion in the relevant literature. Moreover, the researchers' analysis indicates that the overall quality of the body of evidence on these tests remains poor. Many of the identified studies used unsatisfactory patient selection methods, for example. Clearly, there is a need for continued and improved research on existing serological tests and for research into new approaches to the serological diagnosis of tuberculosis. For now, though, based on these findings, cost-effectiveness data, and expert opinion, the World Health Organization has issued a recommendation against the use of currently available serological tests for the diagnosis of tuberculosis, while stressing the importance of continued research on these and other tests that could provide quick and accurate diagnosis of TB.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001062.
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of tuberculosis, including information on tuberculosis diagnostics on the Stop TB Partnership (some information is in several languages); the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis recommendations on tuberculosis diagnosis are available
The Web site Evidence-Based Tuberculosis Diagnosis (from Stop TB Partnership's New Diagnostics Working Group) provides access to several resources on TB diagnostics, including systematic reviews, guidelines, and training materials
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about tuberculosis, including information on the diagnosis of tuberculosis disease
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also has detailed information on all aspects of tuberculosis
MedlinePlus has links to further information about tuberculosis (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001062
PMCID: PMC3153457  PMID: 21857806
17.  Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.hqontario.ca/en/mas/mas_ohtas_mn.html.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/ceb/faculty member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website: http://www.path-hta.ca/About-Us/Contact-Us.aspx.
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website: http://theta.utoronto.ca/static/contact.
Objective
The objective of this evidence-based analysis was to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions in the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Tobacco smoking is the main risk factor for COPD. It is estimated that 50% of older smokers develop COPD and more than 80% of COPD-associated morbidity is attributed to tobacco smoking. According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, 38.5% of Ontarians who smoke have COPD. In patients with a significant history of smoking, COPD is usually present with symptoms of progressive dyspnea (shortness of breath), cough, and sputum production. Patients with COPD who smoke have a particularly high level of nicotine dependence, and about 30.4% to 43% of patients with moderate to severe COPD continue to smoke. Despite the severe symptoms that COPD patients suffer, the majority of patients with COPD are unable to quit smoking on their own; each year only about 1% of smokers succeed in quitting on their own initiative.
Technology
Smoking cessation is the process of discontinuing the practice of inhaling a smoked substance. Smoking cessation can help to slow or halt the progression of COPD. Smoking cessation programs mainly target tobacco smoking, but may also encompass other substances that can be difficult to stop smoking due to the development of strong physical addictions or psychological dependencies resulting from their habitual use.
Smoking cessation strategies include both pharmacological and nonpharmacological (behavioural or psychosocial) approaches. The basic components of smoking cessation interventions include simple advice, written self-help materials, individual and group behavioural support, telephone quit lines, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and antidepressants. As nicotine addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition that usually requires several attempts to overcome, cessation support is often tailored to individual needs, while recognizing that in general, the more intensive the support, the greater the chance of success. Success at quitting smoking decreases in relation to:
a lack of motivation to quit,
a history of smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day for more than 10 years,
a lack of social support, such as from family and friends, and
the presence of mental health disorders (such as depression).
Research Question
What are the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions compared with usual care for patients with COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on June 24, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations (1950 to June Week 3 2010), EMBASE (1980 to 2010 Week 24), the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination for studies published between 1950 and June 2010. A single reviewer reviewed the abstracts and obtained full-text articles for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Data were extracted using a standardized data abstraction form.
Inclusion Criteria
English-language, full reports from 1950 to week 3 of June, 2010;
either randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, or non-RCTs with controls;
a proven diagnosis of COPD;
adult patients (≥ 18 years);
a smoking cessation intervention that comprised at least one of the treatment arms;
≥ 6 months’ abstinence as an outcome; and
patients followed for ≥ 6 months.
Exclusion Criteria
case reports
case series
Outcomes of Interest
≥ 6 months’ abstinence
Quality of Evidence
The quality of each included study was assessed taking into consideration allocation concealment, randomization, blinding, power/sample size, withdrawals/dropouts, and intention-to-treat analyses.
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
Nine RCTs were identified from the literature search. The sample sizes ranged from 74 to 5,887 participants. A total of 8,291 participants were included in the nine studies. The mean age of the patients in the studies ranged from 54 to 64 years. The majority of studies used the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) COPD staging criteria to stage the disease in study subjects. Studies included patients with mild COPD (2 studies), mild-moderate COPD (3 studies), moderate–severe COPD (1 study) and severe–very severe COPD (1 study). One study included persons at risk of COPD in addition to those with mild, moderate, or severe COPD, and 1 study did not define the stages of COPD. The individual quality of the studies was high. Smoking cessation interventions varied across studies and included counselling or pharmacotherapy or a combination of both. Two studies were delivered in a hospital setting, whereas the remaining 7 studies were delivered in an outpatient setting. All studies reported a usual care group or a placebo-controlled group (for the drug-only trials). The follow-up periods ranged from 6 months to 5 years. Due to excessive clinical heterogeneity in the interventions, studies were first grouped into categories of similar interventions; statistical pooling was subsequently performed, where appropriate. When possible, pooled estimates using relative risks for abstinence rates with 95% confidence intervals were calculated. The remaining studies were reported separately.
Abstinence Rates
Table ES1 provides a summary of the pooled estimates for abstinence, at longest follow-up, from the trials included in this review. It also shows the respective GRADE qualities of evidence.
Summary of Results*
Abbreviations: CI, confidence interval; NRT, nicotine replacement therapy.
Statistically significant (P < 0.05).
One trial used in this comparison had 2 treatment arms each examining a different antidepressant.
Conclusions
Based on a moderate quality of evidence, compared with usual care, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving intensive counselling or a combination of intensive counselling and NRT.
Based on limited and moderate quality of evidence, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving NRT compared with placebo.
Based on a moderate quality of evidence, abstinence rates are significantly higher in COPD patients receiving the antidepressant bupropion compared to placebo.
PMCID: PMC3384371  PMID: 23074432
18.  Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) 
Executive Summary
In July 2010, the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) began work on a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) evidentiary framework, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding treatment strategies for patients with COPD. This project emerged from a request by the Health System Strategy Division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that MAS provide them with an evidentiary platform on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of COPD interventions.
After an initial review of health technology assessments and systematic reviews of COPD literature, and consultation with experts, MAS identified the following topics for analysis: vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal), smoking cessation, multidisciplinary care, pulmonary rehabilitation, long-term oxygen therapy, noninvasive positive pressure ventilation for acute and chronic respiratory failure, hospital-at-home for acute exacerbations of COPD, and telehealth (including telemonitoring and telephone support). Evidence-based analyses were prepared for each of these topics. For each technology, an economic analysis was also completed where appropriate. In addition, a review of the qualitative literature on patient, caregiver, and provider perspectives on living and dying with COPD was conducted, as were reviews of the qualitative literature on each of the technologies included in these analyses.
The Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Mega-Analysis series is made up of the following reports, which can be publicly accessed at the MAS website at: http://www.hqontario.ca/en/mas/mas_ohtas_mn.html.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Evidentiary Framework
Influenza and Pneumococcal Vaccinations for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Smoking Cessation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Community-Based Multidisciplinary Care for Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Pulmonary Rehabilitation for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Long-term Oxygen Therapy for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Acute Respiratory Failure Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Noninvasive Positive Pressure Ventilation for Chronic Respiratory Failure Patients With Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Hospital-at-Home Programs for Patients With Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telehealth for Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): An Evidence-Based Analysis
Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Using an Ontario Policy Model
Experiences of Living and Dying With COPD: A Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Qualitative Empirical Literature
For more information on the qualitative review, please contact Mita Giacomini at: http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/ceb/faculty_member_giacomini.htm.
For more information on the economic analysis, please visit the PATH website: http://www.path-hta.ca/About-Us/Contact-Us.aspx.
The Toronto Health Economics and Technology Assessment (THETA) collaborative has produced an associated report on patient preference for mechanical ventilation. For more information, please visit the THETA website: http://theta.utoronto.ca/static/contact.
Objective
The objective of this analysis was to conduct an evidence-based assessment of home telehealth technologies for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in order to inform recommendations regarding the access and provision of these services in Ontario. This analysis was one of several analyses undertaken to evaluate interventions for COPD. The perspective of this assessment was that of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, a provincial payer of medically necessary health care services.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Canada is facing an increase in chronic respiratory diseases due in part to its aging demographic. The projected increase in COPD will put a strain on health care payers and providers. There is therefore an increasing demand for telehealth services that improve access to health care services while maintaining or improving quality and equality of care. Many telehealth technologies however are in the early stages of development or diffusion and thus require study to define their application and potential harms or benefits. The Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) therefore sought to evaluate telehealth technologies for COPD.
Technology
Telemedicine (or telehealth) refers to using advanced information and communication technologies and electronic medical devices to support the delivery of clinical care, professional education, and health-related administrative services.
Generally there are 4 broad functions of home telehealth interventions for COPD:
to monitor vital signs or biological health data (e.g., oxygen saturation),
to monitor symptoms, medication, or other non-biologic endpoints (e.g., exercise adherence),
to provide information (education) and/or other support services (such as reminders to exercise or positive reinforcement), and
to establish a communication link between patient and provider.
These functions often require distinct technologies, although some devices can perform a number of these diverse functions. For the purposes of this review, MAS focused on home telemonitoring and telephone only support technologies.
Telemonitoring (or remote monitoring) refers to the use of medical devices to remotely collect a patient’s vital signs and/or other biologic health data and the transmission of those data to a monitoring station for interpretation by a health care provider.
Telephone only support refers to disease/disorder management support provided by a health care provider to a patient who is at home via telephone or videoconferencing technology in the absence of transmission of patient biologic data.
Research Questions
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of home telemonitoring compared with usual care for patients with COPD?
What is the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and safety of telephone only support programs compared with usual care for patients with COPD?
Research Methods
Literature Search
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on November 3, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 2000 until November 3, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, and then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Inclusion Criteria – Question #1
frequent transmission of a patient’s physiological data collected at home and without a health care professional physically present to health care professionals for routine monitoring through the use of a communication technology;
monitoring combined with a coordinated management and feedback system based on transmitted data;
telemonitoring as a key component of the intervention (subjective determination);
usual care as provided by the usual care provider for the control group;
randomized controlled trials (RCTs), controlled clinical trials (CCTs), systematic reviews, and/or meta-analyses;
published between January 1, 2000 and November 3, 2010.
Inclusion Criteria – Question #2
scheduled or frequent contact between patient and a health care professional via telephone or videoconferencing technology in the absence of transmission of patient physiological data;
monitoring combined with a coordinated management and feedback system based on transmitted data;
telephone support as a key component of the intervention (subjective determination);
usual care as provided by the usual care provider for the control group;
RCTs, CCTs, systematic reviews, and/or meta-analyses;
published between January 1, 2000 and November 3, 2010.
Exclusion Criteria
published in a language other than English;
intervention group (and not control) receiving some form of home visits by a medical professional, typically a nurse (i.e., telenursing) beyond initial technology set-up and education, to collect physiological data, or to somehow manage or treat the patient;
not recording patient or health system outcomes (e.g., technical reports testing accuracy, reliability or other development-related outcomes of a device, acceptability/feasibility studies, etc.);
not using an independent control group that received usual care (e.g., studies employing historical or periodic controls).
Outcomes of Interest
hospitalizations (primary outcome)
mortality
emergency department visits
length of stay
quality of life
other […]
Subgroup Analyses (a priori)
length of intervention (primary)
severity of COPD (primary)
Quality of Evidence
The quality of evidence assigned to individual studies was determined using a modified CONSORT Statement Checklist for Randomized Controlled Trials. (1) The CONSORT Statement was adapted to include 3 additional quality measures: the adequacy of control group description, significant differential loss to follow-up between groups, and greater than or equal to 30% study attrition. Individual study quality was defined based on total scores according to the CONSORT Statement checklist: very low (0 to < 40%), low (≥ 40 to < 60%), moderate (≥ 60 to < 80%), and high (≥ 80 to 100%).
The quality of the body of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE Working Group criteria. The following definitions of quality were used in grading the quality of the evidence:
Summary of Findings
Six publications, representing 5 independent trials, met the eligibility criteria for Research Question #1. Three trials were RCTs reported across 4 publications, whereby patients were randomized to home telemonitoring or usual care, and 2 trials were CCTs, whereby patients or health care centers were nonrandomly assigned to intervention or usual care.
A total of 310 participants were studied across the 5 included trials. The mean age of study participants in the included trials ranged from 61.2 to 74.5 years for the intervention group and 61.1 to 74.5 years for the usual care group. The percentage of men ranged from 40% to 64% in the intervention group and 46% to 72% in the control group.
All 5 trials were performed in a moderate to severe COPD patient population. Three trials initiated the intervention following discharge from hospital. One trial initiated the intervention following a pulmonary rehabilitation program. The final trial initiated the intervention during management of patients at an outpatient clinic.
Four of the 5 trials included oxygen saturation (i.e., pulse oximetry) as one of the biological patient parameters being monitored. Additional parameters monitored included forced expiratory volume in one second, peak expiratory flow, and temperature.
There was considerable clinical heterogeneity between trials in study design, methods, and intervention/control. In relation to the telemonitoring intervention, 3 of the 5 included studies used an electronic health hub that performed multiple functions beyond the monitoring of biological parameters. One study used only a pulse oximeter device alone with modem capabilities. Finally, in 1 study, patients measured and then forwarded biological data to a nurse during a televideo consultation. Usual care varied considerably between studies.
Only one trial met the eligibility criteria for Research Question #2. The included trial was an RCT that randomized 60 patients to nurse telephone follow-up or usual care (no telephone follow-up). Participants were recruited from the medical department of an acute-care hospital in Hong Kong and began receiving follow-up after discharge from the hospital with a diagnosis of COPD (no severity restriction). The intervention itself consisted of only two 10-to 20-minute telephone calls, once between days 3 to 7 and once between days 14 to 20, involving a structured, individualized educational and supportive programme led by a nurse that focused on 3 components: assessment, management options, and evaluation.
Regarding Research Question #1:
Low to very low quality evidence (according to GRADE) finds non-significant effects or conflicting effects (of significant or non-significant benefit) for all outcomes examined when comparing home telemonitoring to usual care.
There is a trend towards significant increase in time free of hospitalization and use of other health care services with home telemonitoring, but these findings need to be confirmed further in randomized trials of high quality.
There is severe clinical heterogeneity between studies that limits summary conclusions.
The economic impact of home telemonitoring is uncertain and requires further study.
Home telemonitoring is largely dependent on local information technologies, infrastructure, and personnel, and thus the generalizability of external findings may be low. Jurisdictions wishing to replicate home telemonitoring interventions should likely test those interventions within their jurisdictional framework before adoption, or should focus on home-grown interventions that are subjected to appropriate evaluation and proven effective.
Regarding Research Question #2:
Low quality evidence finds significant benefit in favour of telephone-only support for self-efficacy and emergency department visits when compared to usual care, but non-significant results for hospitalizations and hospital length of stay.
There are very serious issues with the generalizability of the evidence and thus additional research is required.
PMCID: PMC3384362  PMID: 23074421
19.  The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Health Care: A Systematic Overview 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000387.
Aziz Sheikh and colleagues report the findings of their systematic overview that assessed the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care.
Background
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital solutions to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Implementations of transformative eHealth technologies are underway globally, often at very considerable cost. In order to assess the impact of eHealth solutions on the quality and safety of health care, and to inform policy decisions on eHealth deployments, we undertook a systematic review of systematic reviews assessing the effectiveness and consequences of various eHealth technologies on the quality and safety of care.
Methods and Findings
We developed novel search strategies, conceptual maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions, and then systematically identified, scrutinised, and synthesised the systematic review literature. Major biomedical databases were searched to identify systematic reviews published between 1997 and 2010. Related theoretical, methodological, and technical material was also reviewed. We identified 53 systematic reviews that focused on assessing the impact of eHealth interventions on the quality and/or safety of health care and 55 supplementary systematic reviews providing relevant supportive information. This systematic review literature was found to be generally of substandard quality with regards to methodology, reporting, and utility. We thematically categorised eHealth technologies into three main areas: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. We found that despite support from policymakers, there was relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made in relation to these technologies. Whether the success of those relatively few solutions identified to improve quality and safety would continue if these were deployed beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed, has yet to be established. Importantly, best practice guidelines in effective development and deployment strategies are lacking.
Conclusions
There is a large gap between the postulated and empirically demonstrated benefits of eHealth technologies. In addition, there is a lack of robust research on the risks of implementing these technologies and their cost-effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated, despite being frequently promoted by policymakers and “techno-enthusiasts” as if this was a given. In the light of the paucity of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, it is vital that future eHealth technologies are evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle. Such evaluation should be characterised by careful attention to socio-technical factors to maximise the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
There is considerable international interest in exploiting the potential of digital health care solutions, often referred to as eHealth—the use of information and communication technologies—to enhance the quality and safety of health care. Often accompanied by large costs, any large-scale expenditure on eHealth—such as electronic health records, picture archiving and communication systems, ePrescribing, associated computerized provider order entry systems, and computerized decision support systems—has tended to be justified on the grounds that these are efficient and cost-effective means for improving health care. In 2005, the World Health Assembly passed an eHealth resolution (WHA 58.28) that acknowledged, “eHealth is the cost-effective and secure use of information and communications technologies in support of health and health-related fields, including health-care services, health surveillance, health literature, and health education, knowledge and research,” and urged member states to develop and implement eHealth technologies. Since then, implementing eHealth technologies has become a main priority for many countries. For example, England has invested at least £12.8 billion in a National Programme for Information Technology for the National Health Service, and the Obama administration in the United States has committed to a US$38 billion eHealth investment in health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite the wide endorsement of and support for eHealth, the scientific basis of its benefits—which are repeatedly made and often uncritically accepted—remains to be firmly established. A robust evidence-based perspective on the advantages on eHealth could help to suggest priority areas that have the greatest potential for benefit to patients and also to inform international eHealth deliberations on costs. Therefore, in order to better inform the international community, the authors systematically reviewed the published systematic review literature on eHealth technologies and evaluated the impact of these technologies on the quality and safety of health care delivery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers divided eHealth technologies into three main categories: (1) storing, managing, and transmission of data; (2) clinical decision support; and (3) facilitating care from a distance. Then, implementing methods based on those developed by the Cochrane Collaboration and the NHS Service Delivery and Organisation Programme, the researchers used detailed search strategies and maps of health care quality, safety, and eHealth interventions to identify relevant systematic reviews (and related theoretical, methodological, and technical material) published between 1997 and 2010. Using these techniques, the researchers retrieved a total of 46,349 references from which they identified 108 reviews. The 53 reviews that the researchers finally selected (and critically reviewed) provided the main evidence base for assessing the impact of eHealth technologies in the three categories selected.
In their systematic review of systematic reviews, the researchers included electronic health records and picture archiving communications systems in their evaluation of category 1, computerized provider (or physician) order entry and e-prescribing in category 2, and all clinical information systems that, when used in the context of eHealth technologies, integrate clinical and demographic patient information to support clinician decision making in category 3.
The researchers found that many of the clinical claims made about the most commonly used eHealth technologies were not substantiated by empirical evidence. The evidence base in support of eHealth technologies was weak and inconsistent and importantly, there was insubstantial evidence to support the cost-effectiveness of these technologies. For example, the researchers only found limited evidence that some of the many presumed benefits could be realized; importantly, they also found some evidence that introducing these new technologies may on occasions also generate new risks such as prescribers becoming over-reliant on clinical decision support for e-prescribing, or overestimate its functionality, resulting in decreased practitioner performance.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers found that despite the wide support for eHealth technologies and the frequently made claims by policy makers when constructing business cases to raise funds for large-scale eHealth projects, there is as yet relatively little empirical evidence to substantiate many of the claims made about eHealth technologies. In addition, even for the eHealth technology tools that have proven to be successful, there is little evidence to show that such tools would continue to be successful beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed. Therefore, in light of the lack of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, the authors say that future eHealth technologies should be evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle, and include socio-technical factors to maximize the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption in a given context. Furthermore, it is equally important that eHealth projects that have already been commissioned are subject to rigorous, multidisciplinary, and independent evaluation.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000387.
The authors' broader study is: Car J, Black A, Anandan C, Cresswell K, Pagliari C, McKinstry B, et al. (2008) The Impact of eHealth on the Quality and Safety of Healthcare. Available at: http://www.haps.bham.ac.uk/publichealth/cfhep/001.shtml
More information is available on the World Health Assembly eHealth resolution
The World Health Organization provides information at the Global Observatory on eHealth, as well as a global insight into eHealth developments
The European Commission provides Information on eHealth in Europe and some examples of good eHealth practice
More information is provided on NHS Connecting for Health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000387
PMCID: PMC3022523  PMID: 21267058
20.  Airway Clearance Devices for Cystic Fibrosis 
Executive Summary
Objective
The purpose of this evidence-based analysis is to examine the safety and efficacy of airway clearance devices (ACDs) for cystic fibrosis and attempt to differentiate between devices, where possible, on grounds of clinical efficacy, quality of life, safety and/or patient preference.
Background
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a common, inherited, life-limiting disease that affects multiple systems of the human body. Respiratory dysfunction is the primary complication and leading cause of death due to CF. CF causes abnormal mucus secretion in the airways, leading to airway obstruction and mucus plugging, which in turn can lead to bacterial infection and further mucous production. Over time, this almost cyclical process contributes to severe airway damage and loss of respiratory function. Removal of airway secretions, termed airway clearance, is thus an integral component of the management of CF.
A variety of methods are available for airway clearance, some requiring mechanical devices, others physical manipulation of the body (e.g. physiotherapy). Conventional chest physiotherapy (CCPT), through the assistance of a caregiver, is the current standard of care for achieving airway clearance, particularly in young patients up to the ages of six or seven. CF patients are, however, living much longer now than in decades past. The median age of survival in Canada has risen to 37.0 years for the period of 1998-2002 (5-year window), up from 22.8 years for the 5-year window ending in 1977. The prevalence has also risen accordingly, last recorded as 3,453 in Canada in 2002, up from 1,630 in 1977. With individuals living longer, there is a greater need for independent methods of airway clearance.
Airway Clearance Devices
There are at least three classes of airway clearance devices: positive expiratory pressure devices (PEP), airway oscillating devices (AOD; either handheld or stationary) and high frequency chest compression (HFCC)/mechanical percussion (MP) devices. Within these classes are numerous different brands of devices from various manufacturers, each with subtle iterations. At least 10 devices are licensed by Health Canada (ranging from Class 1 to Class 3 devices).
Evidence-Based Analysis of Effectiveness
Research Questions
Does long-term use of ACDs improve outcomes of interest in comparison to CCPT in patients with CF?
Does long-term use of one class of ACD improve outcomes of interest in comparison to another class of ACD in CF patients?
Literature Search
A comprehensive literature search was performed on March 7, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1950 to March 7, 2009.
Inclusion Criteria
All randomized controlled trials including those of parallel and crossover design,
Systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses
Exclusion Criteria
Abstracts were generally excluded because their methods could not be examined; however, abstract data was included in several Cochrane meta-analyses presented in this paper;
Studies of less than seven days duration (including single treatment studies);
Studies that did not report primary outcomes;
Studies in which less than 10 patients completed the study.
Outcomes of Interest
Primary outcomes under review were percent-predicted forced expiratory volume (FEV-1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and forced expiratory flow between 25%-75% (FEF25-75). Secondary outcomes included number of hospitalizations, adherence, patient preference, quality of life and adverse events. All outcomes were decided a priori.
Summary of Findings
Literature searching and back-searching identified 13 RCTs meeting the inclusion criteria, along with three Cochrane systematic reviews. The Cochrane reviews were identified in preliminary searching and used as the basis for formulating this review. Results were subgrouped by comparison and according to the available literature. For example, results from Cochrane meta-analyses included abstract data and therefore, additional meta-analyses were also performed on trials reported as full publications only (MAS generally excludes abstracted data when full publications are available as the methodological quality of trials reported in abstract cannot be properly assessed).
Executive Summary Table 1 summarizes the results across all comparisons and subgroupings for primary outcomes of pulmonary function. Only two comparisons yielded evidence of moderate or high quality according to GRADE criteria–the comparisons of CCPT vs. PEP and handheld AOD vs. PEP–but only the comparison of CCPT vs. PEP noted a significant difference between treatment groups. In comparison to CCPT, there was a significant difference in favour of PEP for % predicted FEV-1 and FVC according to one long-term, parallel RCT. This trial was accepted as the best available evidence for the comparison. The body of evidence for the remaining comparisons was low to very low, according to GRADE criteria, being downgraded most often because of poor methodological quality and low generalizability. Specifically, trials were likely not adequately powered (low sample sizes), did not conduct intention-to-treat analyses, were conducted primarily in children and young adolescents, and outdated (conducted more than 10 years ago).
Secondary outcomes were poorly or inconsistently reported, and were generally not of value to decision-making. Of note, there were a significantly higher number of hospitalizations among participants undergoing AOD therapy in comparison to PEP therapy.
Summarization of results for primary outcomes by comparison and subgroupings
Bolding indicates significant difference
Positive summary statistics favour the former intervention
Abbreviations: AOD, airway oscillating device; CCPT, conventional chest physiotherapy; CI, confidence interval; HFCC, high frequency chest compression; MP, mechanical percussion; N/A: not applicable; PEP, positive expiratory pressure
Economic Analysis
Devices ranged in cost from around $60 for PEP and handheld AODs to upwards of $18,000 for a HFCC vest device. Although the majority of device costs are paid out-of-pocket by the patients themselves, their parents, or covered by third-party medical insurance, Ontario did provide funding assistance through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) for postural drainage boards and MP devices. These technologies, however, are either obsolete or their clinical efficacy is not supported by evidence. ADP provided roughly $16,000 in funding for the 2008/09 fiscal year. Using device costs and prevalent and incident cases of CF in Ontario, budget impact projections were generated for Ontario. Prevalence of CF in Ontario for patients from ages 6 to 71 was cited as 1,047 cases in 2002 while incidence was estimated at 46 new cases of CF diagnosed per year in 2002. Budget impact projections indicated that PEP and handheld AODs were highly economically feasible costing around $90,000 for the entire prevalent population and less than $3,000 per year to cover new incident cases. HFCC vest devices were by far the most expensive, costing in excess of $19 million to cover the prevalent population alone.
Conclusions
There is currently a lack of sufficiently powered, long-term, parallel randomized controlled trials investigating the use of ACDs in comparison to other airway clearance techniques. While much of the current evidence suggests no significant difference between various ACDs and alternative therapies/technologies, at least according to outcomes of pulmonary function, there is a strong possibility that past trials were not sufficiently powered to identify a difference. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that there will be any future trials comparing ACDs to CCPT as withholding therapy using an ACD may be seen as unethical at present.
Conclusions of clinical effectiveness are as follows:
Moderate quality evidence suggests that PEP is at least as effective as or more effective than CCPT, according to primary outcomes of pulmonary function.
Moderate quality evidence suggests that there is no significant difference between PEP and handheld AODs, according to primary outcomes of pulmonary function; however, secondary outcomes may favour PEP.
Low quality evidence suggests that there is no significant difference between AODs or HFCC/MP and CCPT, according to both primary and secondary outcomes.
Very low quality evidence suggests that there is no significant difference between handheld AOD and CCPT, according to primary outcomes of pulmonary function.
Budget impact projections show PEP and handheld AODs to be highly economically feasible.
PMCID: PMC3377547  PMID: 23074531
21.  Effect of Duration and Intermittency of Rifampin on Tuberculosis Treatment Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000146.
In a systematic review of randomized controlled trials on tuberculosis treatment, Dick Menzies and colleagues find shorter courses of rifampin to be associated with poorer treatment outcomes.
Background
Treatment regimens for active tuberculosis (TB) that are intermittent, or use rifampin during only the initial phase, offer practical advantages, but their efficacy has been questioned. We conducted a systematic review of treatment regimens for active TB, to assess the effect of duration and intermittency of rifampin use on TB treatment outcomes.
Methods and Findings
PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane CENTRAL database for clinical trials were searched for randomized controlled trials, published in English, French, or Spanish, between 1965 and June 2008. Selected studies utilized standardized treatment with rifampin-containing regimens. Studies reported bacteriologically confirmed failure and/or relapse in previously untreated patients with bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB. Pooled cumulative incidences of treatment outcomes and association with risk factors were computed with stratified random effects meta-analyses. Meta-regression was performed using a negative binomial regression model. A total of 57 trials with 312 arms and 21,472 participants were included in the analysis. Regimens utilizing rifampin only for the first 1–2 mo had significantly higher rates of failure, relapse, and acquired drug resistance, as compared to regimens that used rifampin for 6 mo. This was particularly evident when there was initial drug resistance to isoniazid, streptomycin, or both. On the other hand, there was little evidence of difference in failure or relapse with daily or intermittent schedules of treatment administration, although there was insufficient published evidence of the efficacy of twice-weekly rifampin administration throughout therapy.
Conclusions
TB treatment outcomes were significantly worse with shorter duration of rifampin, or with initial drug resistance to isoniazid and/or streptomycin. Treatment outcomes were similar with all intermittent schedules evaluated, but there is insufficient evidence to support administration of treatment twice weekly throughout therapy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Tuberculosis—a contagious infection, usually of the lungs—kills nearly two million people annually. It is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, bacteria that are spread in airborne droplets when people with tuberculosis cough. Most people infected with M. tuberculosis do not become ill—their immune system contains the infection. However, the bacteria remain dormant within the body and can cause tuberculosis years later if immunity declines because of, for example, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). The symptoms of tuberculosis include a persistent cough, weight loss and night sweats. The disease can usually be cured by taking several powerful antibiotics regularly for several months although drug-resistant tuberculosis is increasingly widespread. The standardized drug regimen recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for previously uninfected patients consists of an initial treatment phase, in which rifampin, isoniazid, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide are taken daily or thrice weekly for 2 months, and a continuation phase, in which two antibiotics are taken for a further 4–6 months.
Why Was This Study Done?
Resistance to rifampicin, which can develop if this drug is not taken regularly, is associated with poor treatment outcomes, particularly in patients infected with isoniazid-resistant M. tuberculosis. WHO recommends, therefore, that health-care workers watch patients take all their doses of rifampicin (“directly observed therapy”). Treatment regimens for tuberculosis that use rifampicin only during the initial phase and/or give rifampicin several times a week (intermittently) rather than daily would make direct observation of treatment much easier but are such regimens effective? In this study (which, together with two similar studies, was commissioned by WHO to provide the evidence needed for a revision of their treatment guidelines), the researchers undertook a systematic review (a search using specific criteria to identify relevant research studies, which are then appraised and analyzed according to an explicit protocol) and a meta-analysis (a statistical approach that pools the results of several studies) of published trials of various rifampicin-containing regimens for the treatment of tuberculosis in previously untreated patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 57 randomized controlled trials (studies in which groups of patients are randomly assigned to different interventions) that reported the treatment failure and/or relapse rates (determined by seeing whether M. tuberculosis could be grown from sputum brought up from the lungs by coughing, so-called bacteriologically confirmed tuberculosis) associated with various rifampicin-containing treatment regimens. In their statistical analysis of the results of these trials (which involved more than 21,000 previously untreated patients), the researchers found that regimens that used rifampicin during only the first 1–2 months of treatment had higher rates of failure, relapse, and acquired drug resistance than regimens that used rifampicin for 6 months. Indeed, relapse rates decreased with the duration of rifampicin treatment up to 8 months of treatment. Furthermore, outcomes were particularly bad with regimens that included rifampicin during only the first 1–2 months of treatment if there was initial resistance to isoniazid and/or streptomycin (another antibiotic). Outcomes were similar, however, in regimens in which rifampicin was given daily throughout treatment, daily during the initial phase then twice or thrice weekly, or thrice weekly throughout treatment; insufficient evidence was available to evaluate the efficacy of regimens in which rifampicin was given twice weekly throughout treatment.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that tuberculosis treatment regimens for previously untreated patients who use rifampicin during only the first two months of treatment should be phased out and replaced by regimens that use rifampicin for 6 months, particularly in settings where there is likely to be resistance to isoniazid and/or streptomycin. This recommendation will be made in the planned 2009 revision of the WHO tuberculosis treatment guidelines. In addition, these findings suggest that giving rifampicin thrice weekly is as effective as giving it daily during the initial phase or throughout treatment. Importantly, these findings also indicate that more trials are needed to investigate other dosing schedules, to determine the optimal duration of treatment, and to determine the best way to manage patients infected with isoniazid-resistant bacteria. Finally, since very few of the trials identified in the systematic review included HIV-positive participants, trials designed to test drug regimens in people infected with both HIV and M. tuberculosis are urgently needed to reduce global deaths from tuberculosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000146.
The results of another WHO-commissioned study into the treatment of tuberculosis are presented in a separate PLoS Medicine Research Article by Menzies et al. (Menzies D, Benedetti A, Paydar A, Royce S, Pai M, et al. (2009) Standardized Treatment of Active Tuberculosis in Patients with Previous Treatment and/or with Mono-resistance to Isoniazid: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. PLoS Med 6(9): e1000150. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000150)
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides information on all aspects of tuberculosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide several facts sheets and other information resources about tuberculosis
The American Thoracic Society, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Infectious Diseases Society of America have published guidelines on TB treatment
The 2003 (2004 revision) WHO guidelines for national programs for the treatment of tuberculosis are available; WHO also provides information on efforts to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis (in several languages) and its 2009 annual report on global control of tuberculosis describes the current situation (key points are available in several languages)
The WHO publishes guidelines on TB treatment
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000146
PMCID: PMC2736385  PMID: 19753109
22.  The use of older studies in meta-analyses of medical interventions: a survey 
Open Medicine  2009;3(2):e62-e68.
Background
Evidence for medical interventions sometimes derives from data that are no longer up to date. These data can influence the outcomes of meta-analyses, yet do not always reflect current clinical practice. We examined the age of the data used in meta-analyses contained within systematic reviews of medical interventions, and investigated whether authors consider the age of these data in their interpretations.
Methods
From Issue 4, 2005, of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews we randomly selected 10% of systematic reviews containing at least 1 meta-analysis. From this sample we extracted 1 meta-analysis per primary outcome. We calculated the number of years between the study’s publication and 2005 (the year that the systematic review was published), as well as the number of years between the study’s publication and the year of the literature search conducted in the study. We assessed whether authors discussed the implications of including less recent data, and, for systematic reviews containing meta-analyses of studies published before 1996, we calculated whether excluding the findings of those studies changed the significance of the outcomes. We repeated these calculations and assessments for 22 systematic reviews containing meta-analyses published in 6 high-impact general medical journals in 2005.
Results
For 157 meta-analyses (n = 1149 trials) published in 2005, the median year of the most recent literature search was 2003 (interquartile range [IQR] 2002-04). Two-thirds of these meta-analyses (103/157, 66%) involved no trials published in the preceding 5 years (2001-05). Forty-seven meta-analyses (30%) included no trials published in the preceding 10 years (1996-2005). In another 16 (10%), the statistical significance of the outcomes would have been different had the studies been limited to those published between 1996 and 2005, although in some cases this change in significance would have been due to loss of power. Only 12 (8%) of the meta-analyses discussed the potential implications of including older studies. Among the 22 meta-analyses considered in high-impact general medical journals, 2 included no studies published in the 5 years prior to the reference year (2005), and 18 included at least 1 study published before 1996. Only 4 meta-analyses discussed the implications of including older studies.
Interpretation
In most systematic reviews containing meta-analyses of evidence for health care interventions, very recent studies are rare. Researchers who conduct systematic reviews with meta-analyses, and clinicians who read the outcomes of these studies, should be made aware of the potential implications of including less recent data.
PMCID: PMC2765773  PMID: 19946395
23.  Towards evidence‐based medicine for paediatricians 
To give the best care to patients and families, paediatricians need to integrate the highest‐quality scientific evidence with clinical expertise and the opinions of the family.1Archimedes seeks to assist practising clinicians by providing “evidence‐based” answers to common questions which are not at the forefront of research but are at the core of practice. In doing this, we are adapting a format that has been successfully developed by Kevin Macaway‐Jones and the group at the Emergency Medicine Journal—“BestBets”.
A word of warning. The topic summaries are not systematic reviews, although they are as exhaustive as a practising clinician can produce. They make no attempt to statistically aggregate the data, nor search the grey, unpublished literature. What Archimedes offers are practical, best evidence‐based answers to practical, clinical questions.
The format of Archimedes may be familiar. A description of the clinical setting is followed by a structured clinical question. (These aid in focusing the mind, assisting searching2 and gaining answers.3) A brief report of the search used follows—this has been carried out in a hierarchical way, to search for the best‐quality evidence to answer the question (http://www.cebm.net/levels_of_evidence.asp). A table provides a summary of the evidence and key points of the critical appraisal. For further information on critical appraisal and the measures of effect (such as number needed to treat), books by Sackett et al4 and Moyer et al5 may help. To pull the information together, a commentary is provided. But to make it all much more accessible, a box provides the clinical bottom lines.
Electronic‐only topics that have been published on the BestBets site (www.bestbets.org) and may be of interest to paediatricians include:
Are meningeal irritation signs reliable in diagnosing meningitis in children?
Is immobilisation effective in Osgood‐Schlatter's disease?
Do all children presenting to the emergency department with a needlestick injury require PEP for HIV to reduce HIV transmission?
Readers wishing to submit their own questions—with best evidence answers—are encouraged to review those already proposed at www.bestbets.org. If your question still has not been answered, feel free to submit your summary according to the Instructions for Authors at www.archdischild.com. Three topics are covered in this issue of the journal.
Is lumbar puncture necessary for evaluation of early neonatal sepsis?
Does the use of calamine or antihistamine provide symptomatic relief from pruritus in children with varicella zoster infection?
Is supplementary iron useful when preterm infants are treated with erythropoietin?
Is more research needed?
“More research is needed” is a phrase you might have read before. But is more research really needed? Two situations are offered to us in Archimedes this month where clinical questions are, as yet, unanswered. Is iron supplementation really necessary for premature infants treated with erythropoietin, and do antihistamines and calamine lotion help in children with chicken pox? How can we decide if these questions really do “need” research? It may be worth thinking of how likely benefits and harms may be, what the importance of these outcomes are and finally, how much would you consider reasonable to pay for the answer? For example, what chance is there that antihistamines work in chickenpox? What is the chance that side effects will occur? What is the relative severity of side effects versus the delight of being itch free? If we pay for research and spend hours and hours of time pressing through the increasing regulatory frameworks for clinical trials to define the answer to this question, what will be the opportunity cost? What would we fail to do by looking at this? The same questions can be asked of iron supplementation in premature infants, the salvage treatment of relapsing systemic histocytosis or the promotion of car‐seat use in low‐income families. Such value judgements are important; they will have different answers from different perspectives; they will be subject to political influences from pressure groups; being aware of them might stop us from frequently expounding “more research is needed”.
References
1Moyer VA, Ellior EJ. Preface. In: Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health, Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
2Richardson WS, Wilson MC, Nishikawa J, et al. The well‐built clinical question: a key to evidence‐based decisions. ACP J Club 1995;123:A12–13.
3Bergus GR, Randall CS, Sinift SD, et al. Does the structure of clinical questions affect the outcome of curbside consultations with specialty colleagues? Arch Fam Med 2000;9:541–7.
4Sackett DL, Starus S, Richardson WS, et al. Evidence‐based medicine. How to practice and teach EBM. San Diego: Harcourt‐Brace, 2000.
5Moyer VA, Elliott EJ, Davis RL, et al, eds. Evidence based pediatrics and child health, Issue 1. London: BMJ Books, 2000.
doi:10.1136/adc.2006.105379
PMCID: PMC2083019
24.  Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of eHealth Interventions in Somatic Diseases: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses 
Background
eHealth potentially enhances quality of care and may reduce health care costs. However, a review of systematic reviews published in 2010 concluded that high-quality evidence on the benefits of eHealth interventions was still lacking.
Objective
We conducted a systematic review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses on the effectiveness/cost-effectiveness of eHealth interventions in patients with somatic diseases to analyze whether, and to what possible extent, the outcome of recent research supports or differs from previous conclusions.
Methods
Literature searches were performed in PubMed, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library, and Scopus for systematic reviews and meta-analyses on eHealth interventions published between August 2009 and December 2012. Articles were screened for relevance based on preset inclusion and exclusion criteria. Citations of residual articles were screened for additional literature. Included papers were critically appraised using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) Statement before data were extracted. Based on conclusions drawn by the authors of the included articles, reviews and meta-analyses were divided into 1 of 3 groups: suitable, promising, or limited evidence on effectiveness/cost-effectiveness. Cases of uncertainty were resolved by consensus discussion. Effect sizes were extracted from papers that included a meta-analysis. To compare our results with previous findings, a trend analysis was performed.
Results
Our literature searches yielded 31 eligible reviews, of which 20 (65%) reported on costs. Seven papers (23%) concluded that eHealth is effective/cost-effective, 13 (42%) underlined that evidence is promising, and others found limited or inconsistent proof. Methodological quality of the included reviews and meta-analyses was generally considered high. Trend analysis showed a considerable accumulation of literature on eHealth. However, a similar percentage of papers concluded that eHealth is effective/cost-effective or evidence is at least promising (65% vs 62%). Reviews focusing primarily on children or family caregivers still remained scarce. Although a pooled (subgroup) analysis of aggregate data from randomized studies was performed in a higher percentage of more recently published reviews (45% vs 27%), data on economic outcome measures were less frequently reported (65% vs 85%).
Conclusions
The number of reviews and meta-analyses on eHealth interventions in patients with somatic diseases has increased considerably in recent years. Most articles show eHealth is effective/cost-effective or at least suggest evidence is promising, which is consistent with previous findings. Although many researchers advocate larger, well-designed, controlled studies, we believe attention should be given to the development and evaluation of strategies to implement effective/cost-effective eHealth initiatives in daily practice, rather than to further strengthen current evidence.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2790
PMCID: PMC4019777  PMID: 24739471
eHealth; telehealth; telemedicine; review; program effectiveness; cost effectiveness
25.  Antiretroviral Therapy for Prevention of Tuberculosis in Adults with HIV: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001270.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Amitabh Suthar and colleagues investigate the association between antiretroviral therapy and the reduction in the incidence of tuberculosis in adults with HIV infection.
Background
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is the strongest risk factor for developing tuberculosis and has fuelled its resurgence, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2010, there were an estimated 1.1 million incident cases of tuberculosis among the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide. Antiretroviral therapy has substantial potential to prevent HIV-associated tuberculosis. We conducted a systematic review of studies that analysed the impact of antiretroviral therapy on the incidence of tuberculosis in adults with HIV infection.
Methods and Findings
PubMed, Embase, African Index Medicus, LILACS, and clinical trial registries were systematically searched. Randomised controlled trials, prospective cohort studies, and retrospective cohort studies were included if they compared tuberculosis incidence by antiretroviral therapy status in HIV-infected adults for a median of over 6 mo in developing countries. For the meta-analyses there were four categories based on CD4 counts at antiretroviral therapy initiation: (1) less than 200 cells/µl, (2) 200 to 350 cells/µl, (3) greater than 350 cells/µl, and (4) any CD4 count.
Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria. Antiretroviral therapy is strongly associated with a reduction in the incidence of tuberculosis in all baseline CD4 count categories: (1) less than 200 cells/µl (hazard ratio [HR] 0.16, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.07 to 0.36), (2) 200 to 350 cells/µl (HR 0.34, 95% CI 0.19 to 0.60), (3) greater than 350 cells/µl (HR 0.43, 95% CI 0.30 to 0.63), and (4) any CD4 count (HR 0.35, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.44). There was no evidence of hazard ratio modification with respect to baseline CD4 count category (p = 0.20).
Conclusions
Antiretroviral therapy is strongly associated with a reduction in the incidence of tuberculosis across all CD4 count strata. Earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy may be a key component of global and national strategies to control the HIV-associated tuberculosis syndemic.
Review Registration
International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews CRD42011001209
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Tuberculosis—a contagious bacterial infection— is a global public-health problem. In 2010, 8.8 million people developed active tuberculosis and 1.4 million people died from the disease. Tuberculosis can be cured by taking powerful antibiotics regularly for several months, and between 1995 and 2010, 46 million people with tuberculosis were successfully treated using DOTS—a directly observed antibiotic regimen designed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Now, though, the HIV epidemic is compromising global tuberculosis control efforts. HIV-positive people are very susceptible to tuberculosis because HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, destroys the immune system cells (including CD4 lymphocytes) that normally combat tuberculosis. In 2010, 1.1 million of the new (incident) cases of tuberculosis were among the 34 million people living with HIV, and 350,000 people died of HIV-associated tuberculosis, making tuberculosis the leading cause of death among HIV-positive people. To tackle HIV-associated tuberculosis, which occurs mainly in developing countries, WHO now recommends that HIV and tuberculosis programs use collaborative approaches such as the Three I's for HIV/TB strategy—intensified tuberculosis case-finding among HIV-positive people, isoniazid preventative therapy for HIV-positive people without active tuberculosis, and (tuberculosis) infection control in healthcare facilities, social settings, and households.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite progress in scaling up the Three I's for HIV/TB strategy, complementary interventions are still needed to prevent tuberculosis in HIV-positive people. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) lowers the viral load of people infected with HIV and restores their immune system function and could, therefore, prevent HIVassociated tuberculosis, in addition to treating HIV infection. WHO recommends ART for all HIV-positive adults with a CD4 count of less than 350 cells/μl of blood and for all HIVpositive, tuberculosis-positive individuals irrespective of their CD4 count. However, the evidence for ART's preventative impact on tuberculosis has not been systematically examined. Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a search that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of studies) to investigate the impact of ART initiated at various CD4 counts on the development of tuberculosis in HIV-positive adults in developing countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers found 11 studies that compared tuberculosis incidence by ART status in HIV-infected adults over periods longer than six months on average in developing countries and undertook meta-analyses of these studies based on four categories of CD4 count at ART initiation (less than 200 cells/μl, 200–350 cells/μl, greater than 350 cells/μl, and any CD4 count). For all these categories, ART was strongly associated with a reduction in the incidence of tuberculosis. For example, the meta-analysis of the two studies that reported on participants in whom ART was initiated at a CD4 count less than 200 cells/μl yielded a hazard ratio (HR) of 0.16. That is, study participants starting ART when their CD4 count was below 200 cells/μl were about one-sixth as likely to develop tuberculosis as participants not receiving ART. In the metaanalysis of all 11 studies, study participants receiving ART were about one-third as likely to develop tuberculosis as study participants receiving no ART, irrespective of their CD4 count (HR 0.35). Importantly, the CD4 count at which ART was initiated did not significantly alter the magnitude of ART's preventive effect on tuberculosis development.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that ART is strongly associated with a reduction in the incidence of tuberculosis in HIV-positive adults in developing countries, whatever the CD4 count at ART initiation. Because most of the studies in this meta-analysis were observational, these results do not show that ART causes a reduction in tuberculosis incidence—other unknown factors shared by the study participants who received ART may be responsible for their lower tuberculosis incidence. Moreover, factors such as variations in diagnostic methods among the studies included in this meta-analysis may have affected the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, the key finding that ART is associated with a significant reduction in tuberculosis cases among adults with CD4 counts greater than 350 cells//μl should be considered by healthcare providers, policymakers, and people living with HIV when weighing the benefits and risks of early ART initiation. It also suggests that early ART initiation (in combination with expanded HIV testing) could be a key component of future global and national strategies to control HIV-associated tuberculosis.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001270.
WHO provides information on all aspects of tuberculosis, including information on tuberculosis and HIV, on the Three I's for HIV/TB, and on ART for tuberculosis prevention (some information is in several languages)
The TB/HIV Working Group is part of the Stop TB Partnership, which is working toward tuberculosis elimination; patient stories about tuberculosis/HIV co-infection are also available on their site
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about tuberculosis and about tuberculosis and HIV co-infection
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also has detailed information on all aspects of tuberculosis including HIV-associated tuberculosis
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV-related tuberculosis (in English and Spanish), and from Aidsmap, a non-governmental organization, on HIV-associated tuberculosis
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001270
PMCID: PMC3404110  PMID: 22911011

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