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The tiny data firm at the center of the hydroxychloroquine storm

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  1. skybrian
    From the article: [....] [...] [...] [...]

    From the article:

    On Thursday, doubts about data from Surgisphere prompted the retraction of two scientific articles, including an influential study in The Lancet that had shown antimalarial drugs promoted by President Donald Trump could be harmful in the treatment of Covid-19.

    The World Health Organization had suspended clinical trial programs using hydroxychloroquine following the initial report, as did the U.K. and France. The Lancet’s peer-reviewed study, published on May 22, claimed to have analyzed Surgisphere data collected from almost 96,000 Covid-19 patients across the globe.

    But in the days after publication, concerns over the underlying data bubbled up. Questions arose over how Surgisphere, a little-known company that claims to have 11 employees, could have reached agreements on sharing sensitive patient information with some 1,200 hospitals around the world, much less received and processed the data so quickly.


    The scrutiny has placed Surgisphere and Desai, who was listed as a co-author on both of the articles, under a microscope, and also raised questions about research standards during the coronavirus pandemic.


    Scientists have highlighted potential inconsistencies in the data used in The Lancet study, from an unrealistically high number of electronic patient records in Africa to the doubtful origin of European figures given the continent’s strict rules around health privacy. Moreover, the dataset had more patients than would appear likely given the dates and progress of the virus, especially in the U.K. The Lancet last week published a brief correction of data from Australia.


    [...] the Surgisphere studies were highly unusual in that they claimed to quickly assemble data from hundreds of anonymous hospitals, using numerous electronic medical records systems, under different privacy laws across many countries on multiple continents. And even more strangely, for studies that claimed a massive feat of data integration in record-setting time, they had no biostatisticians listed as authors that might have helped pull all this data together.


    The retracted study published May 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine claimed to have records of 107 patients from five hospitals in France, including ethnic information such as skin color. However, it’s unlawful to collect such data in France. What’s more, the transmission or sale of hospital data and patient records are strictly limited, and often require approval by the CNIL privacy watchdog. The CNIL told Bloomberg it had not received requests from Surgisphere. The French health ministry didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

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