‘How can we all best use evidence?’ project update

Since June 2015, the Academy has been undertaking an extensive study into how we can all best use evidence to judge the potential benefits and harms of medicines. This workstream comprises four strands:

As the remit of this project requires expertise from outside of the Academy, the project was launched with a widely disseminated call for written evidence, which asked for input into all aspects of the workstream. Throughout the course of the project, we have also engaged widely via workshops, oral evidence sessions, and meetings with key stakeholders. We have collated the evidence we have received to date in a repository on our website so that it can be viewed and accessed by anyone who is interested in this topic. The repository will be continually updated as the project progresses.

To date, we have completed the following activities as part of this programme of work. Reports of all these activities will be published on our website during the course of the project.

  • As part of the ‘Methods of evaluating evidence’ strand, we held an evidence-gathering workshop in partnership with the Wellcome Trust on 21 October 2015, entitled ‘Evaluating evidence in health’. The meeting was chaired by Sir Michael Rutter CBE FRS FBA FMedSci, Chair of the ‘Methods of evaluating evidence’ Working Group, and Dr Jeremy Farrar OBE FRS FMedSci, Director of the Wellcome Trust.
  • We held a workshop on ‘Conflicts of interest’, chaired by Baroness Onora O'Neill CH CBE HonFRS FBA FMedSci, on 27 November 2015.  
  • We hosted a roundtable meeting, in partnership with the Science Media Centre on 8 April 2016, for journalists, press officers and other communications experts to discuss the role of the media and the main challenges in communicating evidence.
  • We commissioned Melanie Smallman from Think-Lab Ltd to conduct a literature review to gain a further understanding of recent research into how evidence is used by the public to judge the potential benefits and harms of medicines. The review summarises how evidence has been talked about in previous dialogue exercises and in the science communication literature, and is available to download from the evidence repository.
  • We commissioned ComRes to undertake a survey of the general public and GPs in the UK to evaluate perspectives on: trust in evidence about medicines; trust in doctors and clinical scientists to produce and use scientific evidence effectively; drivers and barriers to trust in evidence; and over- and under-medication.   

Looking to the future, we will:

  • Host a one-day workshop, chaired by Professor Theresa Marteau FMedSci, on 'Communicating evidence about medicines' to consider the evidence on effective ways of communicating quantitative evidence about the potential benefits and harms of medicines. This workshop will take place at the Academy's headquarters on 6 June.
  • Carry out our deliberative dialogue activities over the spring and early summer. Workshops will be taking place with members of the public, patients, and healthcare professionals in London, Leeds and Glasgow. Ipsos MORI has been commissioned to deliver these activities, which have been informed by a stakeholder roundtable on 21 April and a meeting with the workstream’s Oversight Group on 28 April.
  • Finalise the 'Methods of evaluating evidence' Working Group report, which is to be submitted to the Academy's Council for approval in June.

All elements of the workstream will be brought together in an overarching report, which will draw on the evidence received into all four strands of work. The report will be an independent, authoritative document that will aim to enable a wide range of groups (including, but not limited to, patients, the public, healthcare professionals, researchers and communicators) to better consider the benefits and harms of medicines. The final report will be published in winter 2016/17.

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