Following the studies, the World Health Organisation and several governments swiftly changed their stances on the anti-malarial drug, issuing warnings and pausing ongoing trials. That these decisions were taken without any checks and balances, even as scientists questioned the validity of the findings, is highly concerning.
Company Employees Have No Scientific Background; Fail to Explain Data or Methodology
The US-based company, which has 11 employees including a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has been providing data for multiple studies, many of which have the Indian Americal chief executive, Sapan Desai, as their co-authors.
The Guardian inquiry has found that the company has so far failed to explain the source of its data or the methodology it followed to collect data from thousands of hospitals around the world.
Studies published in reputed journals such as The Lancet and the New Journal of Medicine have been based on this data. The findings from the former study on over 15,000 COVID19 patients, came into question when Guardian Australia revealed errors in the Australian data. For instance, at least seven hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney who denied any participation in this database, and that they had ‘never ever heard of ‘Surgisphere’.
Over 120 researchers and medical professionals have questioned the study, as reported on 29 May.
Another peer-reviewed study in the NEJM was based on Surgisphere data and found that certain common heart medications were not associated with a higher risk of harm in COVID19 patients. This, again, had Desai as one of the authors.
Journals Release ‘Expression of Concern’ Notice
On Wednesday, 3 June, editor of Lancet editors issued an ‘expression of concern’ regarding the HCQ study, saying, Important scientific questions have been raised about data reported in the paper by Mandeep Mehra et al.”
“Although 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, we are issuing an Expression of Concern to alert readers to the fact that serious scientific questions have been brought to our attention. We will update this notice as soon as we have further information,” it said.
A similar notice was issued by the NEJM on 2 June, “ Recently, substantive concerns have been raised about the quality of the information in that database. We have asked the authors to provide evidence that the data are reliable. In the interim and for the benefit of our readers, we are publishing this Expression of Concern about the reliability of their conclusions.”
Desai Calls This a ‘Fundamental Misunderstanding’
The origins and supposed evolution of the company, from a medical education company publishing books in 2008, to owning an international database of over a 1000 hospitals, remains unclear and ambigious. Many experts have voiced concerns, saying, “Surgisphere came out of nowhere to conduct perhaps the most influential global study in this pandemic in the matter of a few weeks.”
The information from the company’s database, including the names of the hospital, has not been made public yet.
Responding to the issues raised by The Guardian about the database and his background, Desai said, “There continues to be a fundamental misunderstanding about what our system is and how it works”.
“There are also a number of inaccuracies and unrelated connections that you are trying to make with a clear bias toward attempting to discredit who we are and what we do,” he said. “We do not agree with your premise or the nature of what you have put together, and I am sad to see that what should have been a scientific discussion has been denigrated into this sort of discussion.”
(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)
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