KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 — The World Health Organization (WHO) and several national governments reportedly amended their Covid-19 policies and treatment guidelines based on questionable data from a small US health care analytics company.
The integrity of key studies related to Covid-19 published in some of the world’s most respected medical journals were also called into question, as reported by The Guardian.
The small US-based health care analytics company — Surgisphere, which reportedly employs a handful of employees including a science fiction writer and an adult-content model — had contributed data to multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, without adequate explanation of its data or methodology.
Surgisphere claimed that the data was obtained legitimately from more than a thousand hospitals worldwide, which formed the basis of scientific articles that led to amendments in Covid-19 treatment guidelines in Latin American countries.
The same data from Surgisphere also led the WHO and research institutes around the world to stop trials of the controversial anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 treatment. The Guardian reported that the WHO announced on Wednesday that these trials would now resume.
The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine — two of the world’s leading medical journals — published studies based on data obtained through Surgisphere. These studies were co-authored by the firm’s chief executive Sapan Desai.
The Lancet on Tuesday issued an “expression of concern” about its published study after being approached by the Guardian, and the New England Journal of Medicine had also released a notice of similar nature.
Authors not affiliated with Surgisphere have authorised an independent audit of the source and validity of the data supplied by the company due to “concerns that have been raised about the reliability of the database”.
The Guardian’s investigation found that a number of Surgisphere’s employees have little to no data or scientific background, where an employee listed as a science editor was found to be a science fiction author and fantasy artist, and another employee listed as a marketing executive is also an event hostess and adult model.
The company’s LinkedIn page last week listed six employees, but it has since been changed to only three employees as of Wednesday. Surgisphere also reportedly has an online presence that is almost non-existent while the company claims to run one of the largest and fastest hospital databases in the world.
Furthermore, Desai was found to have been named in three medical malpractice suits that were unrelated to Surgisphere’s database.
The Guardian also reported that the “get in touch” link on Surgisphere’s web page redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, which creates confusion on how hospitals could contact the company.