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The Lancet retracts paper that highlighted the dangers of taking hydroxychloroquine

Published on 05/06/20 at 11:34am
License to use Creative Commons Zero/Photo from PeakPix

The Lancet has retracted a paper that claimed to show that people who took hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 had a higher risk of developing heart rhythm problems and dying than those who did not.

The author of the paper, Professor Mandeep Mehra, from the Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, said he could no longer vouch for the data’s accuracy. One of the other authors is Dr Sapan Desai, who is also the founder of the organisation who provided the data: Surgisphere Corporation.

An investigation by The Guardian found that the company was wrongly allocating patient data to Australia instead of Asia along with other serious anomalies. The makeup of the company has also been scrutinised, as it is only made up by a handful of employees including a science fiction writer and an adult-content model. The company has also failed to adequately explain its methodology or data.

An independent audit company was asked to examine the company’s database but it is understood Desai has refused to allow them to access all his data.

Yesterday, Professor 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. 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 New England Journal of Medicine also had a study published by Mehra and Desai, based on data from Surgisphere, which has also now been taken down.

This Lancet study was notable as it seemingly confirmed fears that hydroxychloroquine was not safe for COVID-19 patients. However, in light of these retractions, the WHO has resumed randomized clinical trials testing if the drug is safe to treat coronavirus with.

Conor Kavanagh

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