Widely Publicized Anti-Hydroxychloroquine Study a Fraud, Cites Porn Star as Marketing Executive

Science Mag:

On its face, it was a major finding: Antimalarial drugs touted by the White House as possible COVID-19 treatments looked to be not just ineffective, but downright deadly. A study published on 22 May in The Lancet used hospital records procured by a little-known data analytics company called Surgisphere to conclude that coronavirus patients taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to show an irregular heart rhythm—a known side effect thought to be rare—and were more likely to die in the hospital.

Within days, some large randomized trials of the drugs—the type that might prove or disprove the retrospective study’s analysis—screeched to a halt. Solidarity, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) megatrial of potential COVID-19 treatments, paused recruitment into its hydroxychloroquine arm, for example.

But just as quickly, the Lancet results have begun to unravel—and Surgisphere, which provided patient data for two other high-profile COVID-19 papers, has come under withering online scrutiny from researchers and amateur sleuths. They have pointed out many red flags in the Lancet paper, including the astonishing number of patients involved and details about their demographics and prescribed dosing that seem implausible. “It began to stretch and stretch and stretch credulity,” says Nicholas White, a malaria researcher at Mahidol University in Bangkok.

 

The Guardian UK:

The Guardian’s investigation has found:

  • A search of publicly available material suggests several of Surgisphere’s employees have little or no data or scientific background. An employee listed as a science editor appears to be a science fiction author and fantasy artist. Another employee listed as a marketing executive is an adult model and events hostess.
  • The company’s LinkedIn page has fewer than 100 followers and last week listed just six employees. This was changed to three employees as of Wednesday.
  • While Surgisphere claims to run one of the largest and fastest hospital databases in the world, it has almost no online presence. Its Twitter handle has fewer than 170 followers, with no posts between October 2017 and March 2020.
  • Until Monday, the get in touch” link on Surgisphere’s homepage redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, raising questions about how hospitals could easily contact the company to join its database.
  • Desai has been named in three medical malpractice suits, unrelated to the Surgisphere database. In an interview with the Scientist, Desai previously described the allegations as “unfounded”.
  • In 2008, Desai launched a crowdfunding campaign on the website indiegogo promoting a wearable “next generation human augmentation device that can help you achieve what you never thought was possible”. The device never came to fruition.
  • Desai’s Wikipedia page has been deleted following questions about Surgisphere and his history.

About Chuck Norton

I write about politics, education, economics, morality and philosophy.
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