Cochrane up shit creek


[Image description: stylised human swimming with a turd in water.]

I’ve long argued that the Cochrane Collaboration is open to infiltration by altmeders. The Cochrane acupuncture group is an example, with the pro-acupuncture Eric Manheimer who refused to share his data with me.

Now Danny Yee’s review of R. Barker Bausell’s Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine, points out how Cochrane standards are substandard.

Yee says “Bausell analyses high quality trials – that is, randomised trials with a credible placebo control group, at least fifty participants, and an attrition rate under 25%, published in high-quality peer-reviewed journals. … An alternative approach is that taken by the Cochrane Collaboration, to systematically review all the trials of a therapy and to analyze them together. In addition to general trial quality concerns, the biggest problem with such reviews is publication bias: positive results are vastly more likely to get published than negative ones.”

Yee notes Bausell’s conclusion:

“There is no compelling, credible scientific evidence to suggest that any CAM therapy benefits any medical condition or reduces any medical symptom (pain or otherwise) better than a placebo.”

When I took my concerns about Manheimer to Cochrane HQ in London they said it was OK for him not to share his data. My concern was the same as Bausell’s – that poor quality acupuncture studies were included in the dataset. I wanted to run the stats taking out the low quality studies. Manheimer refused. Further mentions of acupuncture on my blog.

He had the data on a spreadsheet. It would have been quicker for him to email it or make it publicly available than to argue the point.

What is he hiding? Is this how the alt-med people do “science”?

Time for Cochrane Collaboration to lift its game. The hint is in the name: “collaboration”.

Kevin McCready

2 thoughts on “Cochrane up shit creek

  1. Thanks for your comments. I’m not sure what I could add. If you have any specific questions I could try to answer them. I also haven’t kept up with Cochrane behaviour in the last few years. Hopefully they have improved. But I got the impression from the Australian end that it was a bit of a self-selecting club of medical people who wanted to devote the time to it.


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