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Is it fraud, or is it more political deception, abetted by the incompetence of “highly respected” medical journals? Or both.
How could a respected journal publish papers based on data of unknown provenance? Isn’t there anyone with even a half-decent bullshit meter at work at The Lancet? It’s not even bad journalism (and even bad journalism is long gone), and it should make anyone skeptical of anything and everything in a medical journal.
The WHO’s feckless bureaucracy failed here also and it has done no better sorting fact from fiction on anything for a long time now.
But this is all part and parcel of a medical establishment that still thinks poison saves lives based on studies rife with conflicts of interest and unreleased data and cut-short trials—there is nothing new here really—same modus operandi where medical ethics are strictly limited in scope when it comes to drug trials.
On its face, it was a major finding: Antimalarial drugs touted by the White House as possible COVID-19 treatments looked to be not just ineffective, but downright deadly. A study published on 22 May in The Lancet used hospital records procured by a little-known data analytics company called Surgisphere to conclude that coronavirus patients taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to show an irregular heart rhythm—a known side effect thought to be rare—and were more likely to die in the hospital.
Within days, some large randomized trials of the drugs—the type that might prove or disprove the retrospective study’s analysis—screeched to a halt. Solidarity, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) megatrial of potential COVID-19 treatments, paused recruitment into its hydroxychloroquine arm, for example.
But just as quickly, the Lancet results have begun to unravel—and Surgisphere, which provided patient data for two other high-profile COVID-19 papers, has come under withering online scrutiny from researchers and amateur sleuths. They have pointed out many red flags in the Lancet paper, including the astonishing number of patients involved and details about their demographics and prescribed dosing that seem implausible. “It began to stretch and stretch and stretch credulity,” says Nicholas White, a malaria researcher at Mahidol University in Bangkok. Today, The Lancet issued an Expression of Concern (EOC) saying “important scientific questions have been raised about data” in the paper and noting that “an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data has been commissioned by the authors not affiliated with Surgisphere and is ongoing, with results expected very shortly.”
The Lancet at least is trying to correct its ineptitude, so maybe its reputation can remain somewhat above that of tabloid trash talk journalism.