The Lancet said they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”
Rabat – The Lancet, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed medical journals, has retracted its latest research publication. The paper shone the spotlight on the life-threatening risks of using Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine to treat patients suffering from COVID-19, influencing the work being done to better understand and treat the viral disease.
Although medical research has not yet proven the effectiveness or safety of using Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19, particular attention is being paid to the concerning anomalies of the Lancet’s study.
Medical professionals seek answers as to why the Lancet report prompted sweeping adaptations to research and treatment protocols without rigorous research to back up the study’s claims.
The Lancet’s publication led the World Health Organization (WHO) and governments worldwide to halt their clinical trials and nullify years of research that suggested Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine may be beneficial in treating strands of Coronaviruses.
On June 4, the Lancet apologized for the publication and said that they are adhering to their high standards and “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”
“We all entered this collaboration to contribute in good faith and at a time of great need during the COVID-19 pandemic. We deeply apologize to you, the editors, and the journal readership for any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused.”
Medical professionals have faced criticism after speaking out against the WHO’s controversial recommendation to forgo trials that many believe may lead to successful treatment and cures for the novel coronavirus.
The Lancet’s problematic publication
Following the publication of the study on May 22, researchers and medical professionals raised a number of serious concerns, noting irregular practices in the research publication, suspicious withholding of data, and errors in critical datasets that contributed to the outcome of the study.
Skepticism also arose over the contradictions between reports published by The Lancet in 2003 and onward. All of which affirmed the safety of the drugs under a doctor’s prescription and proper dosage.
Chloroquine has been used for years as an antimalarial agent and to treat HIV-1 infected patients, as well as some autoimmune diseases. Its derivative, Hydroxychloroquine, is prescribed for patients suffering from lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
More than 120 medical professionals from around the world signed an open letter to the authors of the Lancet report. The letter cited a total lack of peer-review, as well as concerns regarding the statistical analysis and integrity of their research.
Questionable findings about the company responsible for the datasets supporting the research
Suspicions are growing around the legitimacy of Surgisphere, the healthcare data, and analytics company responsible for compiling the Lancet study’s data. The company claims to help “countless healthcare organizations to deliver better clinical outcomes and institutional efficiency.”
Of Surgisphere’s 11 employees, many appear to lack scientific backgrounds. According to their LinkedIn profiles, some which were only created 2 months ago, one lists their work experience as an “adult model and event hostess,” while other labels themselves as a science fiction author and fantasy artist.
It is also worth mentioning that Surgisphere’s founder, Dr. Sapan Desai, is a co-author of the Lancet’s May 22nd report and that links to contact or request research proposals on the company’s website have redirected inquiries to unrelated or non-existing webpages.
“Until Monday, the ‘get in touch’ link on Surgisphere’s homepage redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, raising questions about how hospitals could easily contact the company to join its database,” wrote the Guardian’s Melissa Davey, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, and Sarah Boseley.
Although effectively steering against the trials of already-on-the-market low-cost drugs such as Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine may seem strange in a time of dire need, some are not surprised.
Dr. Jennifer Bryan, a doctor from the United States and chairman of the board of trustees for the Mississippi State Medical Association, referenced the power and control that big pharmaceutical companies are having on the medical industry.
“It’s disheartening to learn that this disruptive influence may be happening at the level of trying to intimidate research and corner a market on potential COVID-19 therapies, but it’s not surprising,” she said.
As the world is left reeling in a global pandemic, it is certain that whichever pharmaceutical companies and stakeholders lay patrons on the COVID-19 solution, there will be more to claim than a historic good deed.