In first COVID-19 research scandal, Lancet retracts major hydroxychloroquine paper

Grant Boone
June 6, 2020

Another study looking at the drug's use as a preventive showed that it didn't stop at-risk people from being infected by the coronavirus.

A separate paper, which also used the Surgisphere data, has been retracted from The New England Journal of Medicine.

Anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine was used by many countries to treat patients who are tested positive for COVID-19.

Both The Lancet and the equally prestigious NEJM, which had published a paper on whether blood thinners elevated the risk of COVID-19 that relied on the same company, issued expressions of concern - before the authors themselves pulled both papers.

"Although it is disappointing that this treatment has been shown to be ineffective, it does allow us to focus care and research on more promising drugs", study leader and Oxford professor Peter Horby said in a statement.

Scientists acknowledge, though, that studies are being conducted at break-neck speed while garnering unprecedented levels of attention that could give findings unwarranted weight.

Following the publishing of the study, the World Health Organisation (WHO) - which has been defunded by the White House amid the coronavirus pandemic - initially halted their trials of the malaria drug as a coronavirus treatment, but in the wake of the new findings have resumed trials on Wednesday.

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According to reports from IDC and Counterpoint, four of the five biggest smartphone brands in India are Chinese. Anti-Chinese sentiment has been rising in India in recent weeks as the two countries feud over a border dispute.

In a statement on Thursday, Mehra said: "Our independent peer reviewers informed us that Surgisphere would not transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full ISO audit report to their servers for analysis as such transfer would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements".

"The Executive Group received this recommendation and endorsed the continuation of all arms of the Solidarity Trial, including hydroxychloroquine". In fact, 25.7% of the time after 28 days in the hospital, the patient dies.

A United Kingdom study of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19 was halted after an early analysis found no benefit, the biggest blow yet for the therapy touted by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University, noted the "huge speculation" about the drug as a treatment for COVID-19 but said there had been until now "an absence of reliable information from large randomized trials".

Unfortunately, many scientists who are not involved in the study said that they were in doubt with the released findings of Lancet. The research that followed questioned the validity of the databases, prompting some of the study co-authors to request independent reviews. Following guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), institutional reviews of Surgisphere's research collaborations are urgently needed'.

As part of their trial, a total of 1,542 patients were randomised to hydroxychloroquine and compared with 3,132 patients randomised to usual care alone. As a result, a paper in the New England Medical Journal was also retracted as it was based on one of Surgisphere's data sets.

The Lancet, which first published in 1823, is one of the world's most trusted medical journals. As a result, they have concluded that "they can no longer answer for the veracity of the primary data sources".

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