The Real Interpreter of Maladies

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Is there evidence that yoga helps manage epileptic fits, that shock treatments are useful in treating schizophrenia, that gastric bypass is a long-term weapon in beating obesity? There is a place where you can find out. The Cochrane Library offers evidence-based research culled from clinical trials on thousands of medical queries on everything including yoga for epilepsy (does not help); ECT for schizophrenia (there are short-term uses); and gastric bypass (more effective than conventional treatments). It was set up in 1993 after British medical researcher Archie Cochrane highlighted the need for independent reviews in healthcare. Like any library, this one, too, works on subscriptions, only here the members are countries. Three years ago, Vellore-based psychiatry professor Dr Prathap Tharyan negotiated a three-year fee with the Library worth $100,000 a year so that anyone in India can have free access to the Library’s contents.

The Cochrane Library is a universal hold-all of clinical trial databases and independent reviews that have been cleared by the stringent Cochrane editorial review board. Since its launch, the online resource has received over 65,000 download requests in India.