|Born||Archibald Leman Cochrane
12 January 1909
|Died||18 June 1988(aged 79)|
Archibald Leman Cochrane (1909–1988) was a Scottish doctor noted for his book Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections on Health Services. This book advocated for the use of randomized control trials to make medicine more effective and efficient. His advocacy of randomized controlled trials eventually led to the development of the Cochrane Library database of systematic reviews, the establishment of the UK Cochrane Centre in Oxford and the international Cochrane Collaboration.
Cochrane was born with porphyria. This caused health problems in his life. He tried treatment using psychoanalysis under Theodor Reik. He became dissatisfied with psychoanalysis. However, he became fluent in German which was useful later on in life.
Cochrane’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, where he served as a member of a British Ambulance Unit within the International Brigades. During World War II as a captured Medical Officer at Salonika (Greece) and Hildburghausen, Elsterhorst and Wittenberg an der Elbe (Germany) prisoner of war camps. His experience in the camp led him to believe that much of medicine did not have sufficient evidence to justify its use.
He said, "I knew that there was no real evidence that anything we had to offer had any effect on tuberculosis, and I was afraid that I shortened the lives of some of my friends by unnecessary intervention." As a result, he spent his career urging the medical community to adopt the scientific method.
Cochrane joined the Medical Research Council's Pneumoconiosis Unit at Llandough Hospital, a part of Welsh National School of Medicine, now Cardiff University School of Medicine in 1948. Here he began a series of studies on the health of the population of Rhondda Fach — studies which pioneered the use of randomised controlled trials (RCTs).
Cardiff University has released an online video of the Rhondda Fach studies. The video shows some archive footage of the community study. Cochrane describes what he was looking for in the surveys.
In 1960 he was appointed David Davies Professor of Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases at the Welsh National School of Medicine, now Cardiff University School of Medicine and nine years later became Director of the new Medical Research Council’s Epidemiology Research Unit at 4 Richmond Road, Cardiff. His groundbreaking paper on validation of medical screening procedures, published jointly with fellow epidemiologist Walter Holland in 1971, became a classic in the field.
His 1971 Rock Carling Fellowship monograph Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections on Health Services, first published in 1972, was very influential. To quote from the book's summary :
"An investigation into the workings of the clinical sector of the NHS strongly suggests that the simplest explanation of the findings is that this sector is subject to severe inflation with the output rising much less than would be expected from the input". According to a review in the British Medical Journal, "the hero of the book is the randomized control trial, and the villains are the clinicians in the "care" part of the National Health Service (NHS) who either fail to carry out such trials or succeed in ignoring the results if they do not fit in with their own preconceived ideas".
Maintaining this challenge to the medical care system as he saw it, in 1978, with colleagues, he published a study of 18 developed countries in which he made the following observations: "the indices of health care are not negatively associated with mortality, and there is a marked positive association between the prevalence of doctors and mortality in the younger age groups. No explanation of this doctor anomaly has so far been found. Gross national product per head is the principal variable which shows a consistently strong negative association with mortality." This work was selected for inclusion in a compendium of influential papers, from historically important epidemiologists, published by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) in 1988.
For his 'gallant and distinguished' services in prisoner of war camps he was awarded an MBE by the British Government; for his contributions to epidemiology as a science he was later awarded the CBE.
Autobiography and archive
One Man's Medicine: An Autobiography of Professor Archie Cochrane was published in 1989 and co-authored by Max Blythe. The book was out of print for a number of years but a paperback edition was published by Cardiff University in April 2009 to celebrate the centenary of Cochrane's birth.
- Cochrane, Archie. "Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections on Health Services". The Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
- Elwood, P.C. "Obituary to Archie Cochrane". Cardiff University. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- "Archie Cochrane: The name behind Cochrane". Cochrane.org. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- Hill, Gerry B. "Archie Cochrane and his legacy: An internal challenge to physicians’ autonomy?". Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
- Cochrane, A.L. (1984). "Sickness in Salonica: My first, worst, and most successful clinical trial". Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 289 (6460): 1726–7. doi:10.1136/bmj.289.6460.1726.
- "University lauds medical pioneer". BBC News. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "Watch Archie Cochrane talk about his research". Cardiff University. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
- Cochrane, A.L.; Holland, W.W. (1971). "Validation of screening procedures". Br Med Bull 27: 3–8.
- Cochrane, A.L. (1989) . Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections on Health Services (2nd ed.). London: Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust. ISBN 0727902822.
- Dollery, C.T. (1972). "Constructive Attack. Effectiveness and Efficiency. Random Reflections on Health Services (AL Cochrane)". Book Reviews. Br Med J 56.
- Cochrane, A.L.; St Leger (1978). "Health service "input" and mortality "output" in developed countries". J Epidemiol and Community Health 32: 200–5.
- Buck, C.; Llopis, A.; Najera, Terris M., eds. (1988), The Challenge of Epidemiology: Issues and selected readings (Scientific Publication No. 505), Washington, DC: Pan American Health Organization.
- "Letter to Archie Cochrane, medical pioneer, from King George VI". People's Collection Wales. 1945. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "Biographical Outline of Archibald Leman Cochrane (1909-1988)". Cardiff University. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
- "Archie Cochrane Archive".
- The Cochrane Library
- Goldacre, Ben (19 August 2006), "Objectionable 'objectives'", Guardian, archived from the original on 12 April 2010, retrieved 2010-03-09
- Harford, Tim (July 2011), Trial, error and the God complex, TED.com, retrieved 2011-07-17