The Lancet, one of the top medical journals in the world, has retracted a study questioning the safety of treating Covid-19 with anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, following controversy surrounding the research firm behind it.
The retraction officially came at the request of the study’s authors, who admitted on Thursday they could “no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”
“We deeply apologize to you, the editors and the journal readership for any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused,” the authors added.
The data used in the study appeared to show that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine caused higher death rates in test subjects. It was cited far and wide as grounds to halt testing of both drugs in Covid-19 patients, including by the World Health Organization.
Healthcare analytics firm Surgisphere, which provided the data, has come under serious scrutiny in recent days as details about the company have come to light.
Though the firm claimed to have gathered their data from thousands of patients at hundreds of hospitals worldwide, an independent investigation has questioned the accuracy of their research. The firm was also found to have almost no online presence and only a handful of employees, one of whom is a science fiction writer and another who is an “adult” entertainer.
Lancet previously admitted “concern” over the study, after troubling facts about Surgisphere came to light, but did not officially retract it until now.
The Surgisphere-based study went further than others that questioned the benefits provided by the anti-malaria drugs, by actually suggesting those taking it had a higher mortality rate. This conclusion created concerns in the medical community and halted global trials.
Hydroxychloroquine first got attention from many medical experts and the mainstream media after US President Donald Trump promoted it as a possible treatment for patients suffering from Covid-19.
Surgisphere has responded to criticism of their research in a statement on their website where they defend the validity of their data registry, and claim they “clearly outlined the limitations of an observational study that cannot fully control for unobservable confounding measures.”