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Lancet expresses concern over published hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine paper

Published on 03/06/20 at 11:44am
Photo by Joegoauk Goa

The Lancet’s editors have expressed their concerns over a paper published in their journal that said hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine was dangerous for use in COVID-19 patients.

The paper was published on 22 May, and found the two drugs are linked to an increased risk of death and heart arrhythmias among people admitted to hospital with the virus. The authors of this study said neither should be used to treat the coronavirus outside of a clinical trial.

However, on Tuesday the editors of the paper said that legitimate questions had been raised about where the data had come from. It came from the Surgisphere Corporation, and its founder Dr Sapan Desai was the author of the 22 May paper. Other criticism cited that there was seemingly high mortality rates linked to the two drugs dating back to its approval in the 1950’s

The Lancet editors said: “Although an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data has been commissioned by the authors not affiliated with Surgisphere and is ongoing, with results expected very shortly, we are issuing an expression of concern to alert readers to the fact that serious scientific questions have been brought to our attention.”

Surgisphere also released a statement responding to the recent criticism: “In our hydroxychloroquine analysis, we studied a very specific group of hospitalised patients with COVID-19 and have clearly stated that the results of our analyses should not be over-interpreted to those that have yet to develop such disease or those that have not been hospitalised. We concluded that off-label use of the drug regimens outside of the context of a clinical trial should not be recommended.”

“Our COVID-19 research was not funded by any drug company, private or public donor, or political organisation. Our research collaborators on the piece for The Lancet devoted their time through personal funds and resources because they saw the urgent humanitarian need and opportunity to inform rapidly evolving pandemic responses.”

The study analysed 15,000 patients with COVID-19 receiving either hydroxychlroquine or chloroquine and 81,000 who did not. The researchers estimated that the drugs created an excess risk of between 34% and 45%.

Conor Kavanagh

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