Red Flags Raised on Research

2 top medical journals are reviewing major studies they published on potential COVID-19 treatments (including hydroxychloroquine) after questions about their data surfaced yesterday, Science reports.

The papers in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine shared a common source: A little-known company called Surgisphere.

A Lancet "expression of concern" acknowledges that “important scientific questions have been raised about data” in a May 22 study that cast doubt on the benefits of hydroxycholoroquine for COVID-19 patients—and suggested it could even be deadly. The news put the brakes on large randomized trials drug trials. The Lancet announced that an independent audit of the data is underway.

Nicholas White, a malaria researcher at Mahidol University in Bangkok, is one of the researchers who noticed red flags including details about patient demographics that didn’t add up. “It began to stretch and stretch and stretch credulity,” he says.

Another paper, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on May 1, indicated that certain blood pressure drugs did not appear to increase the death risk for COVID-19 patients—also relied on Surgisphere data. The NEJM also issued an EOC indicating that they are seeking evidence of the data’s reliability from the study authors.

Surgisphere has not publicly released the data underlying the studies, but is in discussions to provide the study authors with additional details.

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