Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

On 4 June 2020, after a week of increasing scientific concern and scrutiny, first The Lancet, then a little over an hour later the New England Journal of Medicine, retracted studies that were based on inaccessible data, provided by the Surgisphere corporation. The studies have been extremely damaging to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine COVID-19 clinical trials around the globe. Here is MORU’s statement in response to these events.

Composite image of The Lancet and NEJM articles

The Lancet paper by Mehra et al. (May 22) which claimed that hydroxychloroquine increased mortality in COVID-19 and caused arrhythmias was retracted yesterday.

So was its predecessor in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Both studies were based on inaccessible, and therefore unverifiable data, provided by the Surgisphere corporation.

Unfortunately, the Lancet paper, the subsequent media coverage, and the reaction by some regulatory authorities (notably the UK regulator MHRA) and WHO have all been extremely damaging to the chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine COVID-19 clinical trials. Some studies, including our COPCOV prophylaxis study, which aims to see if these drugs at lower doses may prevent illness (which has yet to be answered, and may still be the case even if these drugs don’t work in treatment), have still not been given permission to restart. All the scientific evidence was put before the MHRA shortly after their decision to issue a notice stating they were minded to suspend the trial, and suggesting we stop enrolment, two weeks ago.

Many important questions will need to be answered in the coming weeks and months, but we would like to use this unfortunate opportunity to make two relevant recommendations which we believe are in the public interest.

  1. Medical and scientific journals should not accept papers based on inaccessible data
  2. Regulatory authorities and other agencies responding to such reports should satisfy themselves of the veracity and applicability of published data and the correctness of analyses before they act

Similar stories

Congratulations new Associate Professors

Following the meeting of the Medical Sciences Divisional Committee to consider applications for the conferral of the title of Associate Professor, we are pleased to announce that Rashan Haniffa, Dorcas Kamuya, Isabella Oyier, Le Van Tan and Timothy Walker have been awarded the title Associate Professor

COPCOV now world’s largest COVID-19 pre-exposure prophylaxis trial

A 6-week recruitment burst at Aga Khan University in Pakistan led the way as COPCOV enrolment broke 1600 participants. Led by MORU, COPCOV is the world’s largest trial trying to determine if hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine prevent COVID-19.

How did people in Europe and SE Asia experience the first COVID-19 wave?

An international team, led by Phaik Yeong Cheah, conducted an anonymous online survey from May-June 2020, asking 5,058 people in Thailand, Malaysia, United Kingdom, Italy and Slovenia to share their experiences. Anne Osterrieder and colleagues report the unequal impacts of public health measures, and the prevalence of ‘fake news’.

Recruitment surges in COPCOV COVID-19 prevention study

As high COVID-19 daily cases and highly transmissible variants risk overwhelming countries’ healthcare systems, COPCOV, the world’s last-standing large prophylaxis RCT, faces tight timelines to determine whether chloroquine/ hydroxychloroquine prevents COVID-19

Simple blood tests may help improve malaria diagnosis in clinical studies

About one-third of children diagnosed with severe malaria may instead have an alternative cause of illness, but simple blood tests could help researchers distinguish between the two and speed up research on new treatments.

ASM Editor in conversation with Nick White

Malaria continues to be a major killer, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting the world’s most vulnerable populations with more than 500,000 deaths per year, most of them African children. Emergence of resistance to antimalarial drugs is major public health issue. American Society for Microbiology Editor Dr Cesar Arias discusses with Professor Sir Nick White the latest information on this rapidly evolving field.