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June 5, 2020

Lancet retracts hydroxychloroquine study associated with Surgisphere

By Allie Nawrat

The Lancet journal has retracted a study it published on 22nd May conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Surgisphere, which did not find any benefit of the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine on in-hospital outcomes of Covid-19 patients.

This retraction comes as a result of concerns expressed about the “veracity of the data and analyses conducted by Surgisphere Corporation and its founder and our co-author, Sapan Desai, in our publication.” The Guardian newspaper conducted an investigation into Surgisphere, the results of which were published on 3rd June. The paper found some problems with the company, including alleging it has employees with little to no scientific background, it has no online presence, despite claiming to be one of the best hospital databases in the world, and its founder Desai had been named in three medical malpractice lawsuits.

Following these concerns, the journal conducted an independent review, which was unsuccessful because Surgisphere moved to not “transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full ISO audit report to their servers for analysis,” according to the retraction. It added: “Based on this development, 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.”

This data was central to why the World Health Organization halted the hydroxychloroquine arm of its Solidary trial. As a result of concerns around the data, the WHO re-started that portion of its trial earlier this week.

Data from the Surgisphere was also published in another journal, the New England Journal of Medicine. It has published an expression of concern about the study while it investigates the issue. “We have asked the authors to provide evidence that the data are reliable. In the interim and for the benefit of our readers, we are publishing this Expression of Concern about the reliability of their conclusions,” the expression of concern stated.

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