Show me the data: US skeptical doctors reported COVID breakthrough

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(Reuters) – Tuesday’s report of a potent treatment for the new coronavirus has raised skepticism with optimism among US doctors, who said that the recent withdrawal of an influential left-wing COVID-19 study would see more data.

A pharmacist displays a vial of Dexamethasone at Erasme Hospital, amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium, June 16, 2020. REUTERS / Yves Herman

Global pressure to find a cure or vaccine has accelerated the process of reporting coronavirus study results, fueling confusion as to whether any drugs have proven effective. An influential COVID study was withdrawn this month by British medical journal The Lancet on data concerns.

Researchers in Britain said dexamethasone, used to fight inflammation in other diseases, reducing the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients by around a third, and they were going to work to publish all the details as soon as possible.

But a few hours later, South Korea’s top health official warned against using the drug for COVID-19 patients due to the potential side effects.

“We were burned up front, not just during the pandemic coronavirus, but even pre-COVID, with surprising results that when we have access to the data is not as convincing,” said Dr. Kathryn Hibbert, director of the medical intensive care unit at Harvard University in Massachusetts General Hospital.

Hibbert said the published data will help him assess the results and see which patients have benefited the most and at what dose.

“I am very optimistic that is true, because it would be a huge step forward in being able to help our patients,” she said, but added that it would not change practice that much.

Steroids can suppress the immune system, warned Dr. Thomas McGinn, deputy chief medical officer in New York’s largest health care system, Northwell Health, told Reuters, doctors use steroids case by case.

“We need to see what the study looks like, given the current retraction environment,” said McGinn. “I’m just waiting to see the actual data, see if it is peer reviewed and published in a real journal,” he said.

The University of Washington, professor of medicine Dr. Mark Wurfel urged the researchers to put data before the official publication.

“It would be very, very helpful in helping us to align our patient populations with their own, and to decide whether it is appropriate to apply this therapy for our patients.”

Additional reports by Sangmi Cha from Seoul; Written by Peter Henderson; Editing by David Gregorio and Giles Elgood

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