A large study that said Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous side effects was retracted by three of its authors on Thursday.
The study, published May 22 in the medical journal The Lancet, had provided a counterpoint to President Trump, who has called hydroxychloroquine a “game-changer.”
The study used data from Surgisphere Corporation, which describes itself as a “public service organization dedicated to making the world a better place.” Questions about Surgisphere’s data emerged shortly after the study published on May 22.
In their retraction, three researchers, Dr. Mandeep Mehra, Dr. Frank Ruschitzka and Dr. Amit Patel, wrote that, after concerns were raised about the data and analyses conducted by Surgisphere and its founder, Sapan Desai, a co-author of the study, they launched a third-party peer review, with Desai’s consent. They aimed to confirm “the completeness of the database, and to replicate the analyses presented in the paper.”
“Our independent peer reviewers informed us that Surgisphere would not transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full ISO audit report to their servers for analysis as such transfer would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements. As such, our reviewers were not able to conduct an independent and private peer review and therefore notified us of their withdrawal from the peer-review process,” the three researchers wrote.
“Due to this unfortunate development, the authors request that the paper be retracted,” they wrote. “We all entered this collaboration to contribute in good faith and at a time of great need during the COVID-19 pandemic. We deeply apologise to you, the editors, and the journal readership for any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused.”
In a statement, The Lancet said 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,” and said “institutional reviews of Surgisphere’s research collaborations are urgently needed.”
Retractions of studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals are rare. Earlier this week, The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine issued expressions of concern about Surgisphere data used in two separate studies.
Other studies have also found Covid-19 patients did not benefit from treatment with hydroxychloroquine, and they may have experienced serious side effects due to the treatment.