The British Chiropractic Association: experts in cherry-picking

June 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm (Chiropractic) (, , )

The British Chiropractic Association have an article on their website that contains a rather interesting comment regarding this BMJ article. While the BCA are happy to refer to “one report of 24 cases” and “one UK study” to support two of the various claims they make during the piece, they finish the article by complaining about the BMJ article:

The cherry-picking of poor quality research needlessly raises alarm in patients and does little to help the people suffering from neck pain and headaches to choose the most appropriate treatment.
If you have any concerns about your treatment, please discuss this with your chiropractor.
That’s right – the BCA have complained about somebody other than them cherry-picking poor quality research. And why wouldn’t they? Cherry-picking poor quality research is very much their territory and they presumably do not like others trespassing.

In fact, the corresponding author of the BMJ article has tweeted about this accusation of cherry-picking – saying “If the BCA think our citing of all case control studies is cherry picking then I guess we’ll never be able to make a decision on safety” – but perhaps we should ignore this rebuttal and simply presume that the BCA are correct. After all, they are the experts in cherry-picking poor quality research.

In May 2009, I wrote about a ‘research’ page on the association’s website and then emailed the BCA. In the BCA’s own words, this page contained “a selection of research papers and reports of relevance and interest”. A selection. The BCA had selected certain research papers and reports. Entirely coincidentally, these papers and reports were positive with regard to chiropractic treatment.

So, the research published by the BCA was variable, made up of reports, guidelines, and a small number of RCTs. All systematic reviews and meta analyses were omitted. It doesn’t look to me like the BCA selected their research by looking for the best available evidence, bearing in mind the robust criticism of some of the research they cited (and that all the hierarchies of evidence I’ve ever seen have placed expert opinion below systematic reviews and meta analyses). Perhaps they selected their research by looking for research and reports that were positive? The very definition of cherry-picking.


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  1. jdc325 said,

    The BBC repeat the BCA’s “cherry-picking poor research” slur here. I’ve submitted a complaint.

  2. Matt said,

    “”The cherry-picking of poor quality research needlessly raises alarm in patients and does little to help the people suffering from neck pain and headaches to choose the most appropriate treatment,” it said.”

    Completely agree with this statement at the bottom of the BBC piece. This clearly relates to the use of the “plethora” of evidence cited by the BCA in the Simon Singh case.
    If only the BCA would read it and take note.

    Oh…… Errrr…. Hang on….

    I see what they did there…

  3. martin said,

    This is one of those irregular verbs isn’t it: I select appropriate, relevant data. You’ve failed to complete a representative survey of the data. They deliberately cherry pick.

  4. jdc325 said,

    Excellent work there Martin. I wish I’d thought of that while writing my post. Next time, though. Next time…

  5. Chiropractor Bergen County said,

    yes once i had a neck pain it was to much then one my friend advice me to checkup from chiropractic health care after 2 times visiting here i realize that i have no more pain. Chiropractic care is so important.

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