Newsdeck

COVID-19

Authors retract Lancet article that found risks in hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19

Authors retract Lancet article that found risks in hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19
epa08383788 A nurse holds a dose of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which is reportedly showing good results in the treatment of COVID-19 patients, at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Morales Meseguer Hospital in Murcia, Spain, 25 April 2020, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. According to health workers at the Morales Meseguer ICU, one of the hardest parts to deal with during the coronavirus crisis has been not being able to hold the hand of the dying persons as there was a high risk of contagion. EPA-EFE/MARCIAL GUILLEN

NEW YORK/LONDON, June 5 (Reuters) - An influential medical journal article that found hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients was retracted on Thursday, adding to controversy around a drug championed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Three of the authors of the article retracted it, citing concerns about the quality and veracity of data in the study.

The anti-malarial drug has been controversial in part due to support from Trump, as well as implications of the study published in British journal The Lancet last month, which led several COVID-19 studies to be halted.

The three authors said Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, would not transfer the dataset for an independent review and they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”

The fourth author of the study, Dr. Sapan Desai, chief executive of Surgisphere, declined to comment on the retraction.

“When you have reputable journals that put this kind of work out and are retracted 10 days later, it just increases mistrust,” said Dr. Walid Gellad, a professor at University of Pittsburgh’s medical school.

The Lancet said on Thursday it “takes issues of scientific integrity extremely seriously, and there are many outstanding questions about Surgisphere and the data that were allegedly included in this study”.

It said institutional reviews of Surgisphere’s research collaborations were urgently needed.

Another study in the New England Journal of Medicine that relied on Surgisphere data and shared the same lead author, Harvard Medical School Professor Mandeep Mehra, was retracted for the same reason.

The observational study published in The Lancet on May 22 said it looked at 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, some treated with the decades-old malaria drug. It claimed that those treated with hydroxychloroquine or the related chloroquine had higher risk of death and heart rhythm problems than patients who were not given the medicines.

The World Health Organization, which paused hydroxychloroquine trials after The Lancet study was released, said on Wednesday it was ready to resume trials, and dozens of other trials have resumed or are in process.

“I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use,” the study’s lead author, Professor Mehra, said in a statement. “For that, and for all the disruptions – both directly and indirectly – I am truly sorry.”

Many scientists voiced concern about the study, which had already been corrected last week because some location data was wrong. Nearly 150 doctors signed an open letter to The Lancet calling the article’s conclusions into question and asking to make public the peer review comments that preceded publication.

The episode highlights how studies to prevent and treat the virus are being conducted at unprecedented speed while garnering high levels of attention that could give findings unwarranted weight. (Reporting by Michael Erman, Peter Henderson and Josephine Mason Editing by Leslie Adler, Tom Brown and Giles Elgood)

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.