More than 120 researchers and medical professionals from around the world wrote an open letter to the editors of Lancet magazine, in which they expressed serious concern about the large-scale study of hydroxychloroquine. The same study, the results of which led WHO to suspend the clinical trials of this antimalarial drug as a treatment for COVID-19.
The Guardian writes about the reaction of the global medical community to research at Lancet.
In a publication released a week ago, it was reported that patients with COVID-19 who received the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die and experience more cardiovascular complications than other patients. Such conclusions were made as a result of a large observational study, where 15,000 patients receiving hydroxychloroquine were compared with 81,000 control patients who did not receive it.
Shortly after publication, it turned out that the Australian data mentioned in the article were at variance with those of the local Department of Health. And Columbia University doubted the methods of statistical modeling used in the study. The authors of the letter to the Lancet editor write about these and other shortcomings of the study, which, in their opinion, could lead to general erroneous conclusions.
In particular, the signatories mention the absence in the study of references to countries or hospitals that provided their data, which contradicts the methods accepted in world practice. Several errors have already been revealed: the statistics of one of the hospitals in Asia, as it turned out, were attributed to the Australian data, which Surgisphere, which collected the data, had already recognized. Suspicion of experts is also caused by data from Africa, where, according to the study, 25% of all cases of COVID-19 and 40% of all deaths occurred in hospitals that conducted close electronic monitoring of all cases of the disease. “Both the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the detailed collection of data seem unlikely”, - the open letter says.
The authors also express concern about unusually small reported discrepancies in the source variables, interventions, and outcomes between continents, which seems unlikely due to large demographic differences. Finally, as the authors of the letter summarize, before drawing conclusions regarding the appropriateness of using any drug, carefully conducted randomized control trials are needed - observational studies are not enough.
The problem is that hydroxychloroquine has long been used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases, but how effective and safe it is with COVID-19 is still unclear. The test results are extremely contradictory, there is information about the harm that hydroxychloroquine and similar drugs bring with self-medication, - up to death. Therefore, authorities around the world are warning that non-specialists use hydroxychloroquine. Whatever happened in the end with hydroxychloroquine, this story once again makes one wonder what motivates doctors - professional duty and instinct of a researcher or interests of a different kind, for example, financial and political.
The British Medical Journal recently published an article on financial relations between leaders of influential American professional medical associations and industry, judging by which these ties sprouted very deeply: 80% of American doctors who lead influential organizations have financial relations with industry, and leaders of ten influential groups In recent years, they have received nearly $ 130 million from industrialists.
A new story from the same series. As soon as Donald Trump, who is known to take hydroxychloroquine for the prevention, stops funding WHO, as in Lancet, one of the oldest and most respected medical publications in the world, a study is commissioned that claims that the drug causes severe cardiac abnormalities and contributes to mortality.
After which, in a number of countries, studies of hydroxychloroquine are curtailed, and WHO also stops them. It seems that an inexpensive anti-malarial drug has simply become a bargaining chip in political games. We follow the development of the situation.