Doubts cast over US firm’s study linking HCQ with higher Covid-19 deaths
The global study that forced a lot of countries around the world to dump HCQ as a potential treatment for coronavirus patients’ has been put under the scanner by an investigation done by British daily, The Guardian.Updated: Jun 03, 2020 23:51 IST
A research published last month in reputed medical journal Lancet, which claimed to have analysed data of 90,000 coronavirus patients admitted in 671 hospitals across the world to conclude that the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was associated with increased mortality and heart disease has been questioned by a British daily. The Guardian claims to have conducted an investigation, which not only found contradictions in the study but also uncovered the alleged dubious record of the organization that carried out the study along with its owner, who co-authored it.
The study which gained the world’s attention after it was published in Lancet led to several countries changing theCovid-19 treatment protocol and the world health organization (WHO) along with several other research institutions halting hydroxichloroquine trials.
The Guardian investigation claims that the US-based company Surgisphere and its handful of employees had very little record in the field of scientific research and the company’s chief executive—Sapan Desai- a vascular surgeon, who had two lawsuits registered against him in the US, has been previously involved in ambitious projects that have not seen the light of the day. It further claims that the company has also not been able to explain in detail how it procured data from several jurisdictions and the research methodology employed to arrive at the conclusion.
The Guardian also cites several doctors--120 to be precise- and experts who are equally suspicious of Surgisphere’s study which created a big shift in Covid-19 treatment protocols across the world and an “expression of concern” over the study published by Lancet to support its investigation. It says that Lancet has also decided to launch an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data.
According to The Guardian’s investigation, several of Surgisphere’s handful of employees have little or no data or scientific background. It says the company’s science editor “appears to be a science fiction author and fantasy artist” and another of its employees, listed as a marketing executive, is an “adult model” and events hostess.
It also claimed that the company’s LinkedIn page has less than 100 followers and had listed just six employees last week, which was later changed to three employees as of Wednesday.
Furthermore, Surgisphere has almost no online presence despite claims to run one of the largest and fastest hospital databases in the world, the publication claims. The firm’s Twitter handle has fewer than 170 followers, with no posts between October 2017 and March 2020, it says, to illustrate the point about the firm being nondescript.
The investigation also refers to a 2008 crowd funding campaign launched on the website indiegogo by Sapan Desai for promoting a “next generation human augmentation device” that could unleash the full potential of any human being. The campaign flopped and the device never came into existence, says the UK daily.
It adds that Desai’s Wikipedia page has been deleted following questions about Surgisphere and his history.
The investigation also pointed to errors in the publication first noticed by Guardian Australia, which highlighted that Surgisphere had mixed up data of Australian hospitals with two other hospitals leading to over reporting of the number of Covid-19 deaths in Australia. The newspaper adds that further investigation revealed that seven Australian hospitals, whose cooperation would have been necessary for Surgisphere’s study, had denied any association with the research or the database the firm claimed to have accessed.
The study co-authored by Mandeep R Mehra, Sapan S Desai, Frank Ruschitzka and Amit N Patel was published on May 22 and it claimed that benefits of administering hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine when used alone or in combination with a macrolide, to a Covid-19 positive patient, led to increased mortality rate and heart problems.