The study which influenced the decision of the World Health Organisation to suspend hydrochloroquine trial for treating COVID-19 patients has been retracted over inaccessible data.
On May 22, a study published by The Lancet, a medical journal, claimed chloroquine had no positive effect on the treatment of COVID-19 among 96,032 sampled patients.
Three days later, Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, announced a “temporary pause” in the WHO solidarity trial of the drug, while citing the study.
But an investigation by UK Guardian showed that the data used by The Lancet, which was obtained from Surgisphere, a US-based company, was questionable.
An independent audit of the validity of the data was launched over “concerns that have been raised about the reliability of the database.”
In the retraction note published by the journal on Thursday, Mandeep Mehra, medical director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center, one of the three co-authors who led the research, apologised over the questionable publication.
The authors noted that an independent and private peer review of the study could not take place because such “would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements.”
“Our independent peer reviewers informed us that Surgisphere would not transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full ISO audit report to their servers for analysis as such transfer would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements,” the statement read.
“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.
“We all entered this collaboration to contribute in good faith and at a time of great need during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We deeply apologise to you, the editors, and the journal readership for any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused.”
In a similar statement, The Lancet said the authors “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”
The medical journal said “it takes issues of scientific integrity extremely seriously, and there are many outstanding questions about Surgisphere and the data that were allegedly included in this study.”
WHO had announced resumption of hydrochloroquine trial after a review of the data.