Major, Major Scandal In Clinical Research

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A few days ago I flagged that that big hydroxychloroquine study published in The Lancet was becoming a major and substantive controversy. The questions raised about it went well beyond critical questions of interpretation or how one structures a proper study or review to questions verging on accusations of fraud.

Today The Lancet officially retracted the study. This was followed a short time later by The New England Journal of Medicine retracting a separate study that was not about hydroxychloroquine but relied on data from the same company, Surgisphere.

Needless to say, this is a major scandal, possibly a major fraud perpetrated on two of the world’s most respected medical journals. It had immediate, real world impacts, halting on-going double blind studies on hydroxychloroquine. The Lancet study was withdrawn (I would think nominally) at the request of the authors not connected with Surgisphere. Sapan S. Desai, the owner and founder of Surgisphere was a listed author on both studies.

The world of medical research and publishing is one I have no real insight into. I’m sure many who have insight will be discussing this at some length. Suffice it to say the COVID epidemic has seen a dramatic rush of publication in advance of peer review, for I think obvious and good reasons. This was a peer reviewed, officially published study. But it seems highly likely that the understandable and largely salutary drive to move clinically relevant new information into print is tied in some way to this debacle.

Special thanks to TPM Readers BD and JB for helping me be on top of this story.

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