Authors retract study that raised questions about drug used to treat COVID-19
By: Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY 9 hrs ago
Say it ain't so !
The study, initially published on May 22, raised questions about treating severely ill patients with the drug typically used against autoimmune diseases and malaria. Publication of the study, which found no benefit from the drug but potentially serious cardiac side effects, led other researchers, including the World Health Organization to halt studies of the drug.
President Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as a "game-changer" in the fight against COVID-19, and had taken it himself for a time, he said, hoping to prevent infection with the viral disease.
Three authors of The Lancet study, Drs. Mandeep Mehra, Frank Ruschitzka and Amit Patel, all prominent cardiologists, released a statement Thursday afternoon explaining their decision to ask for a retraction – a relatively rare step in science that is considered extremely embarrassing.
They opted for the retraction, they said, because outside reviewers could not confirm their results.
Although serious concerns were raised about the accuracy of the patient data they relied on in their study, the company that collected the information, Surgisphere Corporation, refused to release it for further analysis citing patient privacy.
"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 authors wrote in their retraction request. "Based on this development, we can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources."
The same authors also retracted a paper they had published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month based on the same data. In that paper, the researchers found they could not confirm earlier concerns about using heart disease and high blood pressure medications, called ACE inhibitors and ARBs, to treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
Other scientists praised the authors' decision to withdraw the papers, but said it was an example of the type of sloppy research published in the rush to combat the global pandemic.
There is a "glut of low quality science that is being performed in the wake of COVID19," said Vinay Prasad, an associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, and a frequent critic of scientific research.
"This paper might just be tip of the iceberg of potentially erroneous conclusions being drawn from studies fundamentally ill-suited to the task at hand," he continued via email. "If someone were keeping a book of 'Things to do better in a future pandemic' it probably already has 1,000 pages."