How can we all best use evidence?

The Academy of Medical Sciences published a report in June 2017 examining how we can all best use evidence to judge the potential benefits and harms of medicines. 

For more information, visit our dedicated microsite.

Over the past few years, questions have been raised in both the general and scientific media about the evidence underlying decisions about treatment options, for example the use of statins to prevent heart disease and stroke, of Tamiflu to treat influenza and of hormone replacement therapy to treat the symptoms of the menopause. The validity of the different ways of collecting and analysing evidence has been part of this debate, as have broader discussions of issues such as medicalisation (or the reliance on prescribing drugs over lifestyle changes) and conflicts of interest in the way that evidence collection is funded and/or analysed.

The Academy’s report, ‘Enhancing the use of scientific evidence to judge the potential benefits and harms of medicines’, explores these issues further. It concludes that scientific evidence should be at the heart of decisions about the use of medicines, as it is open to check and challenge. To enable this, the report calls for improvements to:

  • The generation of scientific evidence to ensure it is robust, reliable and relevant to patients.
  • The trustworthiness of scientific evidence so that information is disclosed in an accessible, assessable, and usable manner.
  • The communication of evidence to ensure it is presented in a clear, accurate and actionable way.

Making progress on these fronts will require a collective effort from a wide range of stakeholders across the biomedical community.

Please visit our dedicated microsite to view further summary animations about the report.

The report, and its associated annexes and case studies, are available to download on the right hand side of this page. A summary of the report’s recommendations is provided in ‘The report’s recommendations in brief’ tab. A summary of the report and questions that patients could consider asking their doctor during consultations are also available to download on the right hand side of this page.

We would welcome your comments on the report (please send your feedback to


Evidence feeding into the project

The report brings together a series of sub-projects that considered elements relating to:

Evidence that has contributed to this report, including workshop reports from the sub-projects are available in the evidence repository for this project.

Implementing the report's recommendations

In July 2017, the Academy hosted representatives from across the research community at a workshop to consider how best to implement the recommendations from the Academy's report.

Chaired by Professor Sir John Tooke FMedSci, attendees expressed an appetite to take the recommendations forward, highlighting opportunities for collaboration on a number of areas where this might align with work already underway.  In addition, attendees highlighted that many of the recommendations could have important implications across a broad range of disciplines within science. 

Read the summary report of the implementation workshop

Financial contributions towards the project

Arthritis Research UK, the British Heart Foundation (through a Strategic Funding Award), the British Pharmacological Society, the British Society for Immunology, the Medical Research Council, the Naji Foundation and the National Institute of Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme kindly provided financial contributions towards this work. Funding from a core grant

from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the Academy was also used to support this project. This was an independent project that had the support of the Chief Medical Officer. Funders did not approve the conclusions and recommendations and were not sent a draft of the report for approval.

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