Research Synthesis Methods

Use of indirect comparison methods in systematic reviews: a survey of Cochrane review authors

Journal Article

  • Author(s): Asmaa S. Abdelhamid, Yoon K. Loke, Sheetal Parekh‐Bhurke, Yen‐Fu Chen, Alex Sutton, Alison Eastwood, Richard Holland, Fujian Song
  • Article first published online: 19 Dec 2011
  • DOI: 10.1002/jrsm.51
  • Read on Online Library
  • Subscribe to Journal

Because of insufficient evidence from direct comparison trials, the use of indirect or mixed treatment comparison methods has attracted growing interest recently. We investigated the views and knowledge of Cochrane systematic review authors regarding the use of indirect comparison and related methods in the evaluation of competing healthcare interventions.

An online survey was sent to 84 authors of Cochrane systematic review reviews between January and March 2011. The response rate was 57%. Most respondents (87%) had heard of/had some knowledge of indirect comparison, and 23% actually used indirect comparison methods. Some were suspicious of the methods (9%). Most authors (89%) felt they needed more training, especially in assessing the validity of indirect evidence. Almost all felt that the validity of indirect comparison could potentially be influenced by a large number of effect modifiers. Many reviewers (76%) accepted that indirect evidence is needed as it may be the only source of information for relative effectiveness of competing interventions, provided that review authors and readers are conscious of its limitations. Time commitment and resources needed were identified as an important concern for Cochrane reviewers.

In summary, there is an acceptance of the increasing demand for indirect comparison and related methods and an urgent need to develop structured guidance and training for its use and interpretation. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Related Topics

Related Publications

Related Content

Site Footer


This website is provided by John Wiley & Sons Limited, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 8SQ (Company No: 00641132, VAT No: 376766987)

Published features on are checked for statistical accuracy by a panel from the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics (ENBIS)   to whom Wiley and express their gratitude. This panel are: Ron Kenett, David Steinberg, Shirley Coleman, Irena Ograjenšek, Fabrizio Ruggeri, Rainer Göb, Philippe Castagliola, Xavier Tort-Martorell, Bart De Ketelaere, Antonio Pievatolo, Martina Vandebroek, Lance Mitchell, Gilbert Saporta, Helmut Waldl and Stelios Psarakis.