Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Homeopathy meta-analysis comment accepted for publication

Just a short post to say that the article I wrote pointing out some problems with a re-analysis (Rutten and Stolper 2008) of the Shang et al. Lancet meta-analysis has been accepted for publication by Homeopathy. I have also been sent the reply by the authors of the re-analysis. My comment and the reply will not actually appear in print until April, so I'd better not address the content of the reply at this point. I will say that I don't think it adequately addresses the points that I made. In particular, the authors don't have much to say in response to the point that information they claim is missing from the Shang paper is in fact clearly stated in that paper. More to come on this in April.

The Rutten and Stolper paper, and a companion paper in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology by Ludtke and Rutten, were the subject of a press release titled "New Evidence for Homeopathy" claiming to cast doubt on the Shang meta-analysis. Perhaps I should issue a press release titled "New Evidence Against Homeopathy". Then again, maybe it would be better titled "New Evidence Against Homeopaths".

Now, despite apearances, I have to say that the subject of meta-analyses of homeopathy is not one that particularly fascinates me. It's just that a number of prominent homeopaths have made claims that the Shang study is flawed and/or fraudulent. In checking the claims that have been made, mainly be simply checking the Shang paper and its supplementary data, I have almost invariably found that they are false. Apgaylard has found similarly. I find it amazing that these false accusations have propagated across the internet and been accepted as truth, without anyone apparently doing the most basic of fact checking.

15 comments:

zeno said...

Knowing what we all know about woo on the Internet, I'm surprised by your last sentence! :-)

apgaylard said...

Congrats. Keep up the good work. I look forward to your comments in April!

Dr Aust said...

Good to see you back blogging, Paul. And congrats on your continuing role as the gadfly of homeopathic mutual self-congratulation.

As to the way the homeos repeat inaccurate nonsense to one another "as fact", citing any old paper (even if simply plain wrong) to back them, one is reminded of Andrew Lang's famous line about a politician using statistics:

"...as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than for illumination".

Basically it comes down to the perennial inability of AltMed to engage in any kind of meaningful self-critique or self-appraisal. Real scientists know that being wrong (and being corrected by better science and scientists) is part of being right. There is simply no equivalent in AltMed, as it is the depth and sincerity of the belief that trumps all else.

Neuroskeptic said...

Awesome - keep it up!

Paul Wilson said...

Cheers all for your comments.

It's been difficult to post much so far this year, because I'm starting a new project, and have been away on fieldwork. I'm going to be away quite a bit in Norway this year, so I'm probably not going to be able to post as much as I would like. And besides, I should probably concentrate on writing geology papers, rather than pratting about with other people's meta-analyses of homeopathy.

Still, looking at this stuff is a real eye opener. I would never be able to get away with publishing the kind of sloppy work that regularly appears in Homeopathy. It never ceases to amaze me that something purporting to be a peer-reviewed journal would publish some of this stuff.

HolfordWatch said...

Many congratulations and what the others said.

Theo said...

Re: It never ceases to amaze me that something purporting to be a peer-reviewed journal would publish some of this stuff.

Peer review is only as good as your peers...

Irregular Shed said...

Excellent. I don't like seeing bullshit shot down, I like seeing it taken apart so clinically into its individual parts that you can see precisely how the bullshit works. That way you can normally get some people with less scientific minds to understand the wrongness.

Good work!

jdc325 said...

Excellent. I've been following this since your "More meta-analysis delight" post in October and have been looking forward to Homeopathy publishing your comment.
Also - I think the press release might be a good idea. I'd go with "New Evidence Against Homeopathy". Teh media loves press releases and it would be interesting to see who (if anyone) ran it.

Net Admin said...

This trial seemed to have quite a bit of issues. I am not sure what the researchers were thinking when doing the trial. They must know other people where going to look at. The comparison to allopathic medicine in their trial was borderline ridiculous. I see this in both positive and negative homeopathic trials. The trials were just poorly done. It is hard to tell if homeopathy works if people keep doing poor trials.

Mojo said...

"This trial seemed to have quite a bit of issues. I am not sure what the researchers were thinking when doing the trial."

What trial? The post is about a re-analysis of a meta-analysis.

"It is hard to tell if homeopathy works if people keep doing poor trials."

Indeed it is. However, Shang et al showed that it is easier to come to a conclusion if only the good quality trials are considered.

Paul Wilson said...

jdc:

I'm not sure about the press release idea, or about how I would go about it if it was a good idea.

I've posted a discussion over at Bad Science, under activism, if any has any smart ideas or suggestions

grene said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dr. Nancy malik said...

Real (Homeopathic) medicine cures even when Conventional Allopathic Medicine (CAM) fails

Theo said...

Damn you and your logic Dr. Nancy.