Folinic acid over rescue of high dose methotrexate: How problematic citations conserve discredited concepts

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Background: The outdated axiom that the dose of Folinic acid (FA) rescue used after high dose Methotrexate (HDMTX) should be kept to a minimum in order to prevent a reduction of prognosis (“over rescue”) continues to be expressed even though the concept has been seriously challenged. Study aim The ways “problematic citations” are used to support an old theory, such as this, was examined. Results: Ten patterns of “problematic citation” use were identified. In 8 of these patterns the articles used were scientifically sound and the problem was with the articles citing them. However in 2 other pattens, the articles and their conclusions were flawed and citing them, apparently, resulted from accepting the presented data or conclusions as sound and valid. The patterns were 1. Claims based on data that are not present in the cited article. 2. Selective inclusion of data from cited articles. 3. Citation of misleading data presented only in the abstract. 4. Reporting trends as statistically significant. 5. Copying the citations used by others without checking the article. 6. Acceptance of illusionary truth in spite of knowledge to the contrary. 7. Citation of reports not relevant to the population under discussion 8. Presenting opinions as facts without any citation. 9. Selective presentation of data sets that support the thesis while ignoring the data sets that show the opposite results. 10. Use of a title expressing what the authors intended to show but not what was found. Implications: The containing acceptance of this old insupportable conjecture, in part, because of “problematic citations” has resulted in unnecessary neurocognitive damage to patients and may have resulted in the misconception that it is the outcome of HDMTX that may have lead to its abandonment in favour of more toxic therapies. Realisation that this is a significant problem in data analysis should lead authors and reviewers to be even more carefully in checking all references. The importance of high-quality reviews is clearly evident. The effect of “Canonization of false facts” is a serious impairment to the acceptance of new hypotheses that better express reality and could lead to improved treatment results. Authors are advised only to cite articles they have read in entirety not relying on the title, abstract or previous use and to check the content of citations before submission.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110467
JournalMedical Hypotheses
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Folinic acid over rescue
  • High dose methotrexate
  • Problematic citations


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