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Introduction to the symposium: what evidence based medicine is and what it is not
  1. A Liberati1,
  2. P Vineis2
  1. 1University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and Italian Cochrane Centre, Mario Negri Institute Milano, Italy
  2. 2University of Torino, ISI Foundation, Torino, Italy
  1. Correspondence to:
 P Vineis
 University of Torino, ISI Foundation, Torino, Italy;

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Evidence based medicine has much to offer, but a great deal remains to be done to create a better understanding of what it can and cannot do.

The term EBM (evidence based medicine), as we use it nowadays, was introduced in 1992 by the same group of people who, years before, founded the discipline called “Clinical epidemiology” (CE).1 CE stemmed essentially from the idea of adapting and expanding epidemiological methods to medical and health care decision making; CE was in fact defined as “ the discipline dealing with the study of the occurrence of medical decisions in relation to their determinants”.1

CE has been very successful in illustrating new ways of teaching medicine and training health professionals, and has positioned itself around the notion that “critical appraisal skills” are yet another set of essential abilities which—in addition to the interpersonal, diagnostic, and prognostic skills—a good doctor should master. An important by product of CE was documentation which showed that much of the available evidence on diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of diseases was of poor methodological quality and quite often of dubious transferability to everyday clinical practice.

This led to a strong call for improving the scientific basis of clinical practice, which was seen as too often dominated by practices of unproven effectiveness. This was the background for the 1992 Journal of the American Medical Association article that first used the term “evidence based medicine”.2

In essence, proponents of EBM said that “all medical action of diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy should rely on solid quantitative evidence based on the best of …

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