The much-needed national subscription for country-wide access to the online Cochrane Library has just been renewed for a further three years. In a statement, director of the South Asian Cochrane Network and Centre (SACNC) Dr Pratap Tharyan said this would provide millions of people in India continued free access to the best available evidence on the effects of healthcare interventions.
According to him, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had released the first instalment of funding for a three-year national licence on April 30.
It may be recalled that Express had carried an article in this regard on March 31 last year, underlining the need for the ICMR to renew the national subscription. Tharyan said people in India had uninterrupted access to the full contents of the Cochrane Library since 2007, except for a brief period in 2010, when access was halted for nearly a month due to delays in renewal of the national subscription.
The Cochrane Library is a collection of six databases that contain various types of high-quality evidence to inform healthcare decision-making, and a seventh database that provides information about groups in The Cochrane Collaboration. The Cochrane Reviews in the CDSR are prepared by authors who register titles with one of the 53 Cochrane Review Groups.
The SACNC has thanked the ICMR and Wiley-Blackwell (publishers of the library) for ensuring that people with access to an Internet connection in India, could continue to have instant access to the resources provided by The Cochrane Collaboration and hence have access to all health decisions.
Tharyan further said the national free access to this reliable evidence is a privilege given to people in a region or country, where someone else already has an access to this network.
This privilege has limited value if the evidence is not used. Millions of Indians, including health professionals, are still unaware of the availability of this resource, or of how to access it, or even how to interpret the evidence mentioned in The Cochrane Library.
Quoting numerous examples, where Cochrane evidence indicated that health interventions that are harmful or of little benefit are continuously practiced in India. Some of these instances occur owing to the fact that best practice is being sacrificed in exchange of profit-based medicine, while others are due to sheer ignorance of the existence of this evidence, he added.
Numerous Cochrane Reviews of importance to public health in India required dissemination; and the free national access to The Cochrane Library ensures that ICMR’s investment in providing access to reliable evidence is utilized by the public bodies and their members, in order to improve health outcomes for the people of India, he said.