Scientists retract study that found antimalarial drugs dangerous for coronavirus patients

The authors also said they apologized for "any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused."

Three authors of a large study that last month found antimalarials provided no benefit to treating Covid-19 infections, while increasing the risk of heart problems and death, retracted their findings.

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The authors said in a statement Thursday provided by The Lancet, the medical journal that published the study on May 22, that they decided to issue the retraction after Surgisphere Corp., the private company that provided the research data, refused to share the full, detailed data set as part of a review after outside researchers raised concerns.

"We always aspire to perform our research in accordance with the highest ethical and professional guidelines," said the authors, Mandeep Mehra, Frank Ruschitzka and Amit Patel. "We can never forget the responsibility we have as researchers to scrupulously ensure that we rely on data sources that adhere to our high standards. Based on this development, we can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources."

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The authors also said they apologized for "any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused."

The Lancet said in a statement that 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."

The peer-reviewed study analyzed medical records of 96,000 patients hospitalized across six continents with confirmed coronavirus cases from Dec. 20 to April 14. Of the total, 15,000 patients were treated with the malaria drugs alone or in combination with an antibiotic.

Its findings indicated the antimalaria drugs, which many doctors have used to treat Covid-19 patients, didn't help and might even hurt patients.

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Following the study, the World Health Organization paused enrolling patients in clinical trials testing hydroxychloroquine, although this week the organization said it resumed the trials.

More than 100 researchers have raised questions about the data behind the study and about Surgisphere, which had supplied it.

Surgisphere said it has petabytes of data from more than 100 million patients, culled from some 1,200 hospitals and institutions on six continents. Yet many researchers and some hospitals said they had never heard of Surgisphere.

The founder of Surgisphere, Dr. Sapan Desai, was the other author on the paper. Dr. Desai couldn't be reached for comment.