We recently reported our findings on a highly advertised paper published on the journal "Scientific Reports", claiming that the homeopathic remedy Rhus toxicodendron is effective in reducing neuropathic pain in rats.
One of the corresponding authors of the 2018 paper on Scientific Report (Chandragouda R. Patil) is also the first author of another paper on the same topic (the efficacy of the homeopathic remedy Rhus toxicodendron) published in 2011 in the journal Homeopathy, receiving at least 21 citations since its publication (Google Scholar data).
Figure 1 of this paper, devoted to the comparison of the effects of the homeopathic remedy to that of diclofenac, is reproduced below.
As evident by the boxes framed with the same colours, the radiographic panels have been recycled; in the cases of the panels boxed in yellow, a single panel has been cropped to represent the outcome of treatment with the Rhus toxicodendron as opposed to that with diclofenac; in the other cases (red boxes), a panel has been reused after changes in luminance and contrast to show the effects of two different dilutions of the homeopathic remedies.
It is worth noting that Figure 1 is the only experimental image reported in this paper, which relies heavily on tables and numerical results (impossible to check without access to the original data).
Another interesting question regards the effect of Toxicodendron treatments on the paw swelling volume of the treated rats summarized in Table 1 of the paper. According to the main text:
“Compared with the control group, there was less rise in the paw volumes in the Diclofenac and Rhus tox treated animals (Table 1).”
However, the very same first author had previously tested with a similar protocol the same dilutions of Toxicodendron in mice; the results were published in 2009 in a paper, which reads as follows:
“In SRBC induced DTH model in mice, the rise in paw volume indicates intensity of DTH. Treatment of mice with Rhus tox caused escalation of DTH response.”
The 2009 paper includes also Figure 2, which shows the actual increase of mice paws volumes after treatment with Toxicodendron, in a dose dependent fashion; this is stressed by the authors in the conclusions of the paper, which include the following:
“The effects of this drug in the studied models was concentration dependent and not as per homeopathic principles that suggest increase in activity along with increase in the dilutions.”
Indeed, the entire 2009 paper is devoted to show pro-inflammatory, concentration dependent activity of Toxicodendron in mice; this is in stark contrast to the 2011 paper in rats, containing the faulty images, wherein Toxicodendron is described as working according to homeopathic principles (i.e. with increasing activity at decreasing concentrations) and as anti-inflammatory, despite the similar dilutions and dosages used in the 2 experimental models.
Even without considering the manipulated images in the pro-homeopathy paper on rats published in 2011 and discussed herein, how to explain the opposite results published two years before by the same first author in a mouse model where very similar experiments were performed?