Study raises concerns about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the retracted virus

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AP – Several authors of a large study that raised safety concerns about malaria drugs for coronavirus patients have retracted the report, saying that independent reviewers were unable to verify the information that been widely disputed by other scientists.

Thursday’s withdrawal from Lancet was for a May 22 report on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs that have long been used to prevent or treat malaria, but the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 are unknown.

Study leaders also revisited an earlier report using the same company’s hypertension medication database published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The study suggested that the widely used blood pressure medications were safe for patients with coronaviruses, which other studies and groups of cardiologists have also found.

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Even though the Lancet report was not a rigorous test, the observational study had a huge impact because of its size, involving more than 96,000 patients and 671 hospitals on six continents.


Hydroxychloroquine pills (AP Photo / John Locher)

His conclusion that the drugs were linked to a higher risk of death and heart problems in people hospitalized with COVID-19 led the World Health Organization to temporarily stop the use of hydroxychloroquine in a study that ‘it leads, and French officials to stop authorizing its use. in the hospitals there.

“Not only is there no benefit, but we have seen a very consistent signal of harm,” study leader Dr. Mandeep Mehra of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told The Associated Press. at the time of publication of the work.

President Donald Trump after meeting with restaurant industry leaders about the response to the coronavirus in the White House State Dining Room in Washington May 18, 2020 (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

The drugs have been controversial because U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly promoted their use and has taken hydroxychloroquine himself to try to prevent infection after some White House staff members tested positive for the virus. The drugs are known to have potential side effects, especially heart rhythm problems.

The Lancet study was based on a database from a Chicago company, Surgisphere. One of the authors is its founder, Dr. Sapan Desai.

Dozens of scientists have questioned the irregularities and improbable results of the figures, and the other authors, in addition to Desai, said earlier this week that an independent audit would be carried out. In the notice of withdrawal, these authors state that Surgisphere would not give the examiners the complete data, citing confidentiality and agreements with clients.

“Based on this development, we can no longer guarantee the veracity of the main data sources” and should withdraw the report, they wrote.

“I no longer trust the source and the truth of the data, or the conclusions to which it led,” Mehra said in a separate statement on Thursday.

The Lancet advisory stated “there are many unanswered questions about Surgisphere and the data that would have been included in this study”, and “institutional reviews of Surgisphere research collaborations are urgent. “

Desai and Surgisphere did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent to the telephone numbers and email address listed on the company documents.

The retraction shows that “the system works,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. The pace of publication of scientific research has accelerated in response to the pandemic, said Jha, which has resulted in errors.

As long as errors are recognized, the pace seems justifiable because waiting a year or two for the results to be published “is much too slow for this pandemic”.

“Part of the problem is that people are so anxious. They want a definitive answer, yes or no, ”said Jha. “We are progressing as quickly as possible in science, but we cannot overreact to a single study. “



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