Dr Peter Fisher (I have mentioned him several times before, see for instance here, here and here) claimed in his recent editorial (Fisher P, Homeopathy and intellectual honesty, Homeopathy (2017) – not yet available on Medline) that 43 systematic reviews of homeopathy have so far been published, and stated that “of these 21 were clearly or tentatively positive and 9 inconclusive”. In my book, this would mean that the majority of systematic reviews fail to be clearly positive. But Fisher seems to view this mini-statistic as a proof of homeopathy’s efficacy.
As evidence for his statement, Fisher cites this article from his own journal (‘Homeopathy’). However, the paper actually says this: “A total of 36 condition-specific systematic reviews have been identified in the peer-reviewed literature: 16 of them reported positive, or tentatively positive, conclusions about homeopathy’s clinical effectiveness; the other 20 were negative or non-conclusive.”
Confused by this contradiction, I try to dig deeper. Medline provides currently 66 hits when searching systematic reviews of homeopathy. But this figure includes papers that are not really systematic reviews and excludes some relevant articles that are not Medline-listed.
The NHMRC report which Fisher also cites (see below) considered 57 systematic reviews of homeopathy. In his editorial, Fisher stated that the NHMRC report “seems to have missed some systematic reviews of homeopathy”. This can only mean that Fisher knows of more than 57 reviews. Why then does he claim that there are just 43?
Yes, but Fisher’s editorial seems odd in several other ways as well.
- He accuses the NHMRC-authors of ‘malpractice’.
- He finds ‘shocking evidence of bias’.
- He alleges that the EASAC-report ‘cherry-picks evidence’.
- He accuses the EASAC-authors of ‘abuse of authority’.
Why does Dr Peter Fisher go this far, why is he so very aggressive?
I know Peter quite well. He is usually a fairly calm and collected sort of person who is not prone to irrational outbursts. This behaviour is therefore out of character.
The only explanation that I have for his strange behaviour is that he feels cornered, has run out of rational arguments, and senses that homeopathy is now on its last leg.
What do you think?