The Paper That Never Was – A Citation

April 15, 2009 at 4:47 pm (Bad Science, Referenciness) (, )

I emailed one of several websites carrying a claim that Ulrich Abel had a paper published in the Lancet around 1991* on the subject of chemotherapy. They were good enough to reply to me and I discovered that the citation had come from a second source who was an advisor to the website. That advisor turned out to be, startlingly, Matthias Rath.

I should point out that, according to the owners of the website, the error was in their notes rather than being the fault of Matthias Rath and I make no claim of any wrongdoing on the part of Dr Rath on this occasion. I thought I should be clear on that point as I don’t wish to be part of a million pound legal case, as Ben Goldacre and the Guardian were.

So, where did the information come from? Was it from a research paper? Well, it was apparently from Abel’s book Chemotherapy of Advanced Epithelial Cancer (Stuttgart: Hippokrates Verlag GmbH, 1990), summarized by Ralph Moss in his Cancer Chronicles (Dec 1990, p.4) in an article called “Chemo’s ‘Berlin Wall’ Crumbles” and reviewed in Der Spiegel in 1990. The website in question has now been updated to correct the reference. I am satisfied that the owners of this website made an honest mistake in their citation and I am pleased that they have now corrected their website accordingly.

*I’ve seen 1989, 1990, and 1991 given as dates. The book actually seems to be from 1990. The “Ulrich Abel Lancet paper” doesn’t exist.

My original post on this is here. This Bad Science thread is what started me looking for the mysterious “Ulrich Abel Lancet paper”.

Update, 24 April 2011

This article also cites an Ulrich Abel Lancet paper from 1991:

Abel’s epidemiological study was published on Aug. 10, 1991, in “The Lancet.”

Er, no it wasn’t.

Visalia Times-Delta, Ulrich Abel Lancet citation


  1. dvnutrix said,

    That was very helpful of them – you are far more successful than we are in persuading people to be cooperative in matters of this sort…

    Well done you for persevering.

  2. jdc325 said,

    Thanks dvnutrix. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to get the likes of Holford and Minnesota Wellness to cooperate with me – I just blunder in there and innocently ask if they’re sure that the refs are right.

  3. JQH said,

    Excellent digging jdc!

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