Authors retract second study about medical uses of honey

Journal of Clinical NursingA paper that tested the clinical value of honey on venous ulcers has been pulled by the Journal of Clinical Nursing after an investigation uncovered “errors in the data analysis.” Last year, the authors pulled another paper on the healing properties of honey on wounds

We just discovered this second retraction, which appears in the September 2015 issue of the journal, but was posted online last year.

The journal’s editor-in-chief, Debra Jackson, confirmed the dates and said that “a commercial company” brought the matter to their attention. After the journal asked a statistician to weigh in, they stated that a “substantial re-write would be required to correct the article,” and a retraction would be “the most suitable course of action.”

Although she said the authors initially sought to correct, not retract, the study, they eventually agreed with the decision.

Here’s the notice:

The following article from Journal of Clinical Nursing, ‘Manuka honey vs. hydrogel – a prospective, open label, multicentre, randomised controlled trial to compare desloughing efficacy and healing outcomes in venous ulcers’ by Georgina Gethin and Seamus Cowman published online on 25 August 2008 in Wiley Online Library ( and in Volume 18, pp. 466–474, has been retracted by agreement between the journal Editor-in-Chief, the authors and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to errors in the data analysis which affect the article’s findings.

The 2008 paper looked into how well Manuka honey worked when applied to venous ulcers, chronic wounds that usually develop on legs. 

The study was conducted by Georgina Gethin and Seamus Cowman of the National University of Ireland Galway and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Bahrain, respectively. It’s been cited 38 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Last year, Gethin and Cowman had another paper on medical uses of manuka honey for treating chronic wounds pulled by the International Wound Journal because of an outlier that threw off the study’s data.

In a statement to Retraction Watch, Jackson explained what happened with this paper, and said that the authors have been invited to submit a corrected version:

The matter was brought to our attention by a commercial company. JCN investigated the matter and sought the opinion of a third party statistician. It was agreed between the journal Editor-in-Chief, the Publisher and the statistician that a retraction would be the most suitable course of action since a substantial re-write would be required to correct the article, and even then, the re-write would need to undergo peer-review due to the extent of the changes required. Following a period where the authors felt a correction was warranted and not a retraction, the authors agreed with our reasons as to why retraction was warranted. The authors have been invited to submit a corrected manuscript.

We’ve reached out to the paper’s corresponding author Georgina Gethin and we’ll update with any response.

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2 thoughts on “Authors retract second study about medical uses of honey”

  1. I have been helping a researcher on the question of medicinal honey, which started after he discovered this retraction online late last year. Since then, it has been cited 7 times, according to Web of Science.

    This retracted study was included in a review (epub June 2015; print August 2015) on the topic by Holland and Norris (PMID: 26050953). As you note, the retraction was published online in July 2014 and in print September 2015. I can only assume Holland and Norris did not know of the retraction because of the delay in printing a retraction.

    Is it typical for retractions to show up in print so long after the actual retraction?

    It is my understanding that PubMed (and other databases) only note retractions when in print. My experience with researchers and authors has been that unless it is caught in the initial search, it may never been known. Literature searches rely most heavily on PubMed for these notices, unless one happens to stumble upon it online before then. As this case points out, the retraction was documented for at least a year before that, leading to its inclusion in reviews and cited in primary research.

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