The Cochrane Library

The Cochrane Library contains systematic reviews of the treatment of diseases, a database of abstracts of reviews of effectiveness (DARE), and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL). Volunteers, according to strict guidelines developed by the Cochrane Collaboration, write the systematic reviews included in the Cochrane Library The latest issue of the Cochrane Library (2002, issue 3, accessed 13 Oct 2002) contained over 2000 completed systematic reviews. The number of reviews of dermatological topics is increasing steadily.1,2

The CENTRAL is a database of over 300 000 controlled clinical trials. The registry is compiled by searching the Medline and Embase databases, and hand searching many journals. Hand searching journals to identify controlled clinical trials and randomised controlled clinical trials was undertaken because members of the Cochrane Collaboration noticed that many trials were incorrectly classified in the Medline database. As an example, Dr Finola Delamere of the Cochrane Skin Group hand searched the Archives of Dermatology from 1990 through 1998 and identified 99 controlled clinical trials. Nineteen of the trials were not classified as controlled clinical trials in Medline and 11 trials that were not controlled clinical trials were misclassified as controlled clinical trials in Medline.3

DARE is a database of abstracts of systematic reviews published in the medical literature. It contains over 3000 abstracts and bibliographic details on over 800 other published systematic reviews.1,2

The Cochrane Library is the best source for evidence about treatment. It is searched easily using simple Boolean combinations of search terms and by more sophisticated search strategies. The Cochrane Library of Systematic Reviews, DARE and the CENTRAL can be searched simultaneously. The Cochrane Library is available on a subscription basis on CD, and via the internet from Update Software (http://www. cochrane.co.uk). Subscriptions to the Cochrane Library are updated quarterly. The Cochrane Library should be available at your medical library.1,2

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