Lancet Retracts Major Study On Safety Of Antimalarials For Covid-19

US-based data company, Surgisphere, refused cooperation with independent auditors.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 — Prominent medical journals The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) yesterday retracted studies related to potential treatments for Covid-19, as alarms were raised on the reliability of the data obtained from a small US based data analytics company, Surgisphere.

The Lancet yesterday retracted a previously leading study that highlighted safety concerns with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19. These antimalarial drugs were previously touted by US President Donald Trump as valuable treatments for Covid-19 despite insufficient data to prove its benefit.

Following suit was NEJM that retracted a separate study related to blood pressure medications for Covid-19 just over an hour after The Lancet’s announcement, as reported by STAT.

The withdrawals of studies were requested by authors of the studies, both published last month, who were not directly involved with the sources of data collection.

“We can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.

“Due to this unfortunate development, the authors request that the paper be retracted,” Mandeep Mehra of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Frank Ruschitzka of University Hospital Zurich, and Amit Patel of University of Utah reportedly said in a statement issued by The Lancet.

Meanwhile, the result of the first gold-standard clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine’s use in Covid-19 was also reportedly published this Wednesday, which concluded that the antimalarial drug did not prevent infections any better than placebos, while other clinical studies related to this treatment are still ongoing.

The Lancet study gained worldwide attention as it went beyond observational studies and had similarly found that the antimalarial drugs had no association with improved outcomes for patients. The patient data used for the study was supposedly collected from 671 hospitals from six continents, and the study also reported that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are linked to higher mortality.

These findings led to the suspension of several global clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine so that study investigators could evaluate any safety concerns. However, external experts swiftly raised questions after noticing inconsistencies in the data, which then prompted the authors of these papers not affiliated with the data company to call for an independent audit of Surgisphere, the US-based data analytics company that provided the database for these studies.

In The Lancet statement released yesterday, the authors pointed out that Surgisphere refused to cooperate with the independent reviewers and would not provide the data for analysis.

“As such, our reviewers were not able to conduct an independent and private peer review and therefore notified us of their withdrawal from the peer-review process,” the researchers reportedly wrote.

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