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.
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”.