Academic Publishing COVID-19 medicine Research integrity

Would Lancet and NEJM retractions happen if not for COVID-19 and chloroquine?

NEJM and The Lancet retract two fake papers, one was dealing with chloroquine. Did we just get a brief glimpse into the fraudulent abyss of medical literature and the corruption of medical elites, briefly opened by the current COVID-19 situation?

The two highest-ranking international medical journals, New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and The Lancet, retracted yesterday simultaneously two papers on COVID-19. The reason is obvious fraud committed by the coauthor Sapan Desai, Chicago-based surgeon and businessman, whose analytics company Surgisphere claimed to have stored clinical data from thousands of patients of hundreds of hospitals all over the world. Which was apparently all a big fake.

This fraud case is being presently discussed in all the international news, literally every media is onto Desai’s shady past and the details of his Surgisphere fraud, some even figured out it might have been wrong to slam preprints as dangerous poison, while it is the peer reviewed papers in the two most highly ranking medical journals in the world which served us the biggest fraud and caused the biggest damage.

This is why I want to discuss some other aspects proper journalists would never touch. Are the heart surgeons and principal investigators of those two high-impact studies, the Harvard professor Mandeep Mehra of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Amit Patel of University of Utah, really the innocent victims of Desai’s fraud here?

And would the NEJM paper be retracted if the fraud was not exposed by mass protests against its Lancet counterpart, which claimed a suspiciously high rate of mortality from hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) therapy against the coronavirus infection?

How sausages are really made

Another point which gets overlooked: it was not the valiant journal editors who pulled the two papers. Desai’s coauthors initiated the retractions because they rightly panicked that nothing will remain of their highly lucrative reputations if they don’t distance themselves from their own fabricated garbage immediately. This was the Lancet paper, I discussed it in an earlier post:

Mandeep R Mehra, Sapan S Desai, Frank Ruschitzka, Amit N Patel Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis 2020 DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31180-6

In a bizarre course of events, the French chloroquine guru Didier Raoult previously claimed that paper to be fraudulent, and here Raoult was proven right, like a broken cuckoo clock which still shows exact time twice a day. Which doesn’t mean Raoult’s accusations of fraud towards all other chloroquine studies which disagree with his claims, are also correct. Neither does it mean that chloroquine and HCQ are now vindicated as COVID-19 therapy and prophylaxis drugs, quite the opposite. The rest of published research literature either clearly proves chloroquine drugs useless against the coronavirus, and those which still promote it, are either Raoult’s own self-peer-reviewed papers, or other works of abysmal quality.

Like that Indian preprint Raoult celebrated, which was coauthored by the same governmental official Balram Bhargava, who previously decreed HCQ to be used nation-wide for COVID-19 prophylaxis, and then ran a study to prove his vision as correct.

That Lancet paper caused the suspension of big randomized controlled clinical trials on COVID-19 worldwide aimed to determine chloroquine efficiency or the absence thereof, including the WHO clinical trial Solidarity, which was resumed when the Surgisphere data was questioned. Now that the paper is gone for good, clinical research will resume, but the damage is done. Because every chloroquine critical paper will now be dismissed as fraudulent by association. While Raoult cannot be a cheater despite his past and present, because he is now painted by the chloroquine cult as the genius who saved millions with HCQ and the hero who single-handedly exposed the Surgisphere fraud.

Alternative explanation: scientific publishing is broken, journal editors are either crooks or incompetents, all suffering from media obsession, elite scientists don’t care about anything other than their own academic elite status and the industry money flowing into their pockets. Hopefully COVID-19 might expose and end this farce.

The Lancet paper was corrected just some days ago, its conclusions declared unaffected, and now it is retracted. From the retraction notice, dated 4 June 2020:

“Today, three of the authors of the paper, “Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis”, have retracted their study. They were unable to complete an independent audit of the data underpinning their analysis. As a result, they have concluded that they “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.” The Lancet 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.”

Strange is that the three authors Mehra, Patel and Ruschitzka now suddenly declare to have never had access to the data behind the paper they published as principal investigators. Because this is what their original paper declared on authors contributions:

The study was conceived and designed by MRM and ANP. Acquisition of data and statistical analysis of the data were supervised and performed by SSD. MRM drafted the manuscript and all authors participated in critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content. MRM and ANP supervised the study. All authors approved the final manuscript and were responsible for the decision to submit for publication.

Basically, Mehra and Patel designed a study and then asked Desai to provide them some results out of thin air, which his Surgisphere really is. Apparently, this is perfectly normal and reasonable approach in clinical research. How do we know Mehra and Patel did not specifically order some hydroxychloroquine adverse effect results, because they knew exactly which kind of story will be most credible, given the available published literature on chloroquine? Actually, why did Mehra and Patel write this in their original paper then:

The corresponding author and co-author ANP had full access to all the data in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.

They doubled down in a correction on 29 May, where Mehra, Patel and Ruschitzka clearly indicated to have access to Desai’s fictional raw data:

One hospital self-designated as belonging to the Australasia continental designation should have been assigned to the Asian continental designation. The appendix has also been corrected. An incorrect appendix table S3 was included, originally derived from a propensity score matched and weighted table developed during a preliminary analysis. The unadjusted raw summary data are now included. There have been no changes to the findings of the paper.

That was dishonest. Also, what exactly was the contribution of the cardiologist Frank Ruschitzka, from the scandal-plagued University of Zurich in Switzerland? None whatsoever is listed. What did he contribute then? A phone call to the Lancet editor Richard Horton? To Swiss media, Ruschitzka freely admitted to have not only have contributed nothing, but to not even have read the manuscript properly. How much did Ruschitzka contribute to his other papers then?

Additionally, Ruschitzka declared in the original paper that “no personal payments were received in relation to these trials or other activities“, but in the retraction notice he now had to declare previous massive cash flows into his own private pocket from all the big players in pharma industry and even from chocolate manufacturer Mars.

Update 19.06.2020: University of Zurich now opened a research misconduct investigation against Ruschitzka because of this affair.

How can you not trust Desai?

The other retracted paper was this, it was first published on 1 May, 3 weeks before the Lancet paper:

Mandeep R Mehra , Sapan S Desai , SreyRam Kuy, Timothy D Henry, Amit N Patel Cardiovascular Disease, Drug Therapy, and Mortality in Covid-19 NEJM 2020 doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2007621

Nobody at all complained. The utterly fake study with imaginary 9000 patients could have stayed in the annals of medical science for decades and gathered many hundreds of citations. All because compared to the one in The Lancet, that was a “boring” paper, in a sense that it did not make such media-effective claims and lacked scandal potential:

Our study confirmed previous observations suggesting that underlying cardiovascular disease is associated with an increased risk of in-hospital death among patients hospitalized with Covid-19. Our results did not confirm previous concerns regarding a potential harmful association of ACE inhibitors or ARBs with in-hospital death in this clinical context.

In fact, 2 more papers reporting similar findings appeared in the same top journal simultaneously. This is how you commit fraud successfully: fake something which others validated by solid science, to escape criticism and to avoid responsibility when caught on fraud. The Lancet paper was also fabricated “correctly” in this sense, no serious scientist (Raoult is not serious) supports its use for COVID-19 anyway. Problem was: chloroquine was a very wrong topic to cause a scandal on.

My own theory is: if the main authors Mehra, Patel and Desai stayed out of the chloroquine controversy, nobody aside of a handful of easily ignored and media-irrelevant peers would have given a flying toss about Surgisphere’s reliability and the NEJM cardiology study.

Mehra would still have his NEJM paper, something every clinical researcher dreams about. He would be able to translate it into (extra) millions of dollars in pharma payments to himself. The Harvard professor might even also have kept the Lancet paper if only it would have been on some other COVID-19 topic, not chloroquine. For all we know, the Lancet paper might have even survived if it showed HCQ in a better light. After all, if you invent data it doesn#t matetr which way you fabricate. But because of the worldwide chloroquine cult led by Raoult and supported by the fascistoid leaders like Trump, Bolsonaro and Modi, the affair had to explode.

This was the NEJM retraction notice, dated 4 June 2020 and signed by all authors including this time also Desai:

“Because all the authors were not granted access to the raw data and the raw data could not be made available to a third-party auditor, we are unable to validate the primary data sources underlying our article, “Cardiovascular Disease, Drug Therapy, and Mortality in Covid-19.”1 We therefore request that the article be retracted. We apologize to the editors and to readers of the Journal for the difficulties that this has caused.”

For some reason, this highest-ranking medical journal in the world, NEJM, still does not list author contributions. But maybe one can extrapolate from the Lancet paper and assume that here again, Mehra and Patel designed a study and possibly even its preferable results, then tasked Desai to produce the data out of his Surgisphere black box. The other coauthor presumably just went for a ride like Ruschitzka did, maybe their real contribution was simply being friends with Mehra and Patel.

In parallel, two Surgisphere preprints from April 2020, authored by Patel and promoting the antiparasitic medicine Ivermectin as the magic drug against COVID-19, have been deleted by the Elsevier-owned preprint server SSRN completely. The links are dead, but there are backups on internet archive, as a Twitter user noticed. It was apparently same “study”, but presented slightly differently. Strangely, in between versions Patel removed his coauthor Desai and listed himself as the sole author of the slightly changed preprint. Because of those preprints, Ivermectin almost became national COVID-19 therapy in central Latin America. But why did Elsevier delete the preprints completely and without a trace or explanation, since a DOI is supposed to be a permanent hyperlink?

Archive copy here
Archive copy here

A friend of a friend

Now, it is rather obvious that several people put their names on those NEJM and Lancet papers without having contributed anything of scientific value. In fact, it seems to be even their official defence line, freely admitting that all data was produced, analysed and validated by Desai alone. Undeserved authorships are actually a form of research misconduct in itself, but what about Mehra and Patel? They do declare themselves to be principal investigators on those two papers, which by definition implies they must have had access to original data, or have at least verified that the data exists, and that the persons performing data acquisition and analysis are qualified and trustworthy.

Mehra and Patel did none of that, and this in itself is scientific misconduct by recklessness and gross negligence. But wait, here is Patel promoting Surgisphere since March 2020:

Source: Twitter user

It is strange Mehra and Patel only asked Desai if the data existed after massive criticism in international media, a peer signature campaign of protest and public accusations of fraud (not just by Raoult). Why did they trust Desai before so unconditionally?

There are no other common papers with Desai and either Mehra or Patel on PubMed. But one NEJM coauthor, SreyRam Kuy, surgeon and “quality improvement researcher” at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, is a regular coauthor of Desai’s. The oldest of 13 common papers dates to 2013. Incidentally, Science spoke to Mehra:

In a personal statement, Mehra said he connected with Desai through a co-author, and that he personally reviewed the Surgisphere analyses for both the Lancet and NEJM papers

Maybe they mean Dr Kuy? Science also suggests how Mehra’s role is to be understood, and cites an authority:

Mehra is widely viewed as “one of the stars of the field,” says Daniel Goldstein, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine who has collaborated with Mehra on several studies. “He is as straight an arrow as you can find,” Goldstein says. “I think he maybe was too trusting of this company, because [with] the amount of data that this database gave, it’s hard to believe someone would manipulate it.

Thank you Professor Goldstein. This is the crux bigwigs in medicine have to bear, like the Harvard professor Mehra. People keep inviting you to put your name on their paper without any contribution, and you just cannot satisfy all, so you only go for top-ranked journals, like NEJM and Lancet, because those would bring you the biggest share of academic fame, political influence and personal financial enrichment. That is the most charitable explanation of what Mehra did, and it would only fit if he did not declare himself to be principal investigator.

Desai is sure well versed with databases as his publication record suggests (e.g, Dua et al J Vasc Surg 2014). It is very much possible the Surgisphere database is not entirely fake, but a mutated Frankenstein monster of various real databases he had access to and stole data from over the years. Which would explain why statistics experts struggled to find telltale signs of data fakery in the Mehra et al Lancet 2020 paper.

For example, what about the paper by Sapan S. Desai, Amy H. Kaji, Gilbert Upchurch Jr, Practical Guide to Surgical Data Sets: Society for VascularSurgery Vascular Quality Initiative (SVS VQI) JAMA Surgery 2018? Is the multicenter Vascular Quality Initiative database presented there reliable, since Desai had his hands on it? Especially because of this:

Corresponding Author: Sapan S. Desai, MD, PhD,MBA, Performance Improvement, Northwest Community Hospital, 880 W Central Rd, Arlington Heights, IL 60005 (sapan.desai@surgisphere.com)

Or would you trust this database analysis paper: Sapan Desai, Two-Year Outcomes of Early Cannulation Arteriovenous Grafts for End-Stage Renal Disease Ann Vasc Surg 2019?

Nobody ever complained about those, at least there are no public records available. Which surely means those Desai studies are 100% reliable, trustworthy clinical science which will benefit many patients, right?

Sales marketing director of Surgisphere and subsidiary Quartz Clinical, Ms Ariane Anderson, doing her day job. Seriously. Desai achieved what Ashutosh Tiwari always dreamt of. Hat-tip: Lydia Maniatis and Citizen-Z.

Let me close with this paper by Desai, back then affiliated with “Department of Surgery, Duke University, Durham, CA 27710, USA”. It was flagged by Laura Clemens on Twitter:

Bhavin Patel , Anahita Dua, Tom Koenigsberger and Sapan S. Desai Combating Fraud in Medical Research: Research Validation Standards Utilized by the Journal of Surgical Radiology MDPI Publications (2013) doi: 10.3390/publications1030140

The abstract goes:

“Fraud in medical publishing has risen to the national spotlight as manufactured and suspect data have led to retractions of papers in prominent journals. Moral turpitude in medical research has led to the loss of National Institute of Health (NIH) grants, directly affected patient care, and has led to severe legal ramifications for some authors. While there are multiple checks and balances in medical research to prevent fraud, the final enforcement lies with journal editors and publishers. There is an ethical and legal obligation to make careful and critical examinations of the medical research published in their journals. Failure to follow the highest standards in medical publishing can lead to legal liability and destroy a journal’s integrity. More significant, however, is the protection of the medical profession’s trust with their colleagues and the public they serve.”

Damn right, Dr Desai.


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50 comments on “Would Lancet and NEJM retractions happen if not for COVID-19 and chloroquine?

  1. owlbert

    With >100,000 deaths to date from this disease, US-based researchers publish 2 fake papers that mislead efforts to treat >1 million current cases. Retraction should be merely the first, and by far the most mild, of the sanctions faced by these pathetic hucksters, and indeed by the journals involved. In the US Constitution, treason is described as giving aid and comfort to the enemy. To quote the US President: “It’s a medical war. We have to win this war. It’s very important.”

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  2. Pingback: A bordo dell'Enterprise - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it

  3. I wonder if Sirtis had a “page 3” girl in mergers and acquisitions?

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  4. Pingback: Didier Raoult: Fin de Partie? – For Better Science

  5. Me again

    Harvard professor Mehra is very guilty. He is first and corresponding author of both the NJEM and Lancet papers. He declared to have organized and supervised the studies and “The corresponding author …… HAD FULL ACCESS TO ALL THE DATA in the study and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication.”
    But poor USA. The USA press currently has a reflex to color news along political lines, and I guess they perceive Harvard and Mehra as on their side.

    By American journals and news, Mehra tends to be named as only one of the (co-)authors
    CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/04/health/retraction-coronavirus-studies-lancet-nejm/index.html (does not even mention Harvard)
    Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/9ac02bc4-465b-4734-a741-d714a04b477e
    Science: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/mysterious-company-s-coronavirus-papers-top-medical-journals-may-be-unraveling (talking about “Desai’s co-authors”) and https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/two-elite-medical-journals-retract-coronavirus-papers-over-data-integrity-questions
    The Scientist: https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/concerns-build-about-surgisphere-corporations-dataset-67605
    CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/04/lancet-retracts-covid-19-paper-that-raised-safety-concerns-about-drugs.html
    A positive American exception is the New York Post: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/29/health/coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine.html

    Compare with British news where the beast is called for what it is:
    BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-52929916
    Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/04/unreliable-data-doubt-snowballed-covid-19-drug-research-surgisphere-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine
    Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-lancet-drug-treatment-malaria-a9550241.html

    If parties in the USA think that this is only a problem of a lunatic Surgisphere company, the problem will never go away.

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  6. Pingback: » On fait le point sur l’étude du « Lancet »

  7. (ex-)pharma

    Thanks for this great piece of background research! You are absolutely right, part of the problem is that “friends”, especially if they are big names, keep being invited for (first) authorship without real contribution to studies. This is a well-known practice e.g. for studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies. By doing so, companies try to get a better basis for marketing their products, with important “opinion leaders” on board in the important papers.

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  8. Armin Chosnama

    Physics and chemistry can be done as real science. Everything else is messy. People who truly understand how biomedical science is done and those who actually have to apply the findings to their patients take even honest research with a grain of salt.

    My own experience doing piddly little retrospective clinical chart reviews for mid-tier journals is one of rigorous peer review, sometimes to the point of nitpicking. Who knew all it took to get a paper into NEJM and The Lancet was to create fake data to confirm the editors’ and reviewers’ priors, both scientific and political.

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    • owlbert

      Physics is real science? Faffing around with equations and conning multiple governments into building massive installations that employ thousands of physicists and technicians for years on end before someone stumbles out into the light and claims to have found a new boson or captured a sniff of a gravitational wave is clean science? There is nothing preventing biology from being as clean and real as any other science. In fact it’s the cleanest science there is, because unlike the obtuse physics wizards, dumb quacks like Mehra, Desai and Raoult can’t run their scams for very long before getting caught red-handed. That’s because biology matters.

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  9. The best part about the “Combatting Fraud in Medical Research…Journal of Surgical Radiology” paper is that the Journal of Surgical Radiology was owned and produced by Surgisphere.
    I imagine all of the articles in the journal will undergo scrutiny in the coming weeks.

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    • Smut Clyde

      Yet Desai preferred a journal from predatory publisher MDPI as an outlet for the paper. Not exactly a vote of confidence for his own journal.

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  10. Me again

    Did Mehra contribute anything to this other Lancet paper on COVID-19 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172722/?
    And I can’t see good evidence for SARS-Cov-2 virus infection of endothelial cells, one of the major claims of the paper. Is that just me?

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  11. Me again

    No, it’s not just me https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7237172/

    What a joke.

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  12. M. Lokers

    Anecdotal evidence suggest that: HCQ is only succesful in early stage infection – due to the patient still having a relatively low viral load- and HCQ needs to be combined with a zinc-supplement, because it is actually the Zn2+ ions that interfere with viral replication processes inside the human (lung)cell and HCQ is the mere ionophore that helps the Zn2+ ions pass the bilipid cell wall. In addition the antibiotic Azitromycine can be added to treat secundary bacterial infections riding along on the main infection, providing the patient has no history of prior heart issues since high dosage HCQ combined with antibiotics can cause side effects in that area. Vladimir Zelenko, the Jewish md from New York, claims a 5 day treatment with 2 x 200mg HCQ per day, 1x 220mh zinc-sulfate (of which 50mg active zink) per day + 500mg azitromycine per day works well during early stage of the infection.

    Long story short, if you want to test this anecdotal evidence correctly you have to recreate similar settings in your research setup. Therefore there is no point in administering HCQ in overly high doses (which significantly increases the risk of side-effects), without adding a zinc-supplement to patients who already passed well into the advcanced stage of the covid-19 infection. Still Mehra et al. decided this worst case setup was a proper way to test the validity of HCQ be it combined or without antibiotic. This study was obviously designed to fail from the start, even without all the doubts surrounding their dataset.

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  13. Me again

    In the above-mentioned “other” Lancet paper with Mehra as co-author (Varga et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172722/) it reads:
    MRM reports consulting relationships with Abbott, Medtronic, Janssen, Mesoblast, Portola, Bayer, NupulseCV, FineHeart, Leviticus, Baim Institute for Clinical Research, Riovant, and Triple Gene, UNRELATED to this Correspondence.
    Thus, it says that it were not his financial connections that made it interesting to make him co-author. But what was? At the very best this is a very shallow paper with speculations presented as facts.
    Based on COVID-19 being a “vascular disease”, as concluded in the Varga study, Mehra is advising that other medications should be used, at least that is what is said here https://english.alarabiya.net/en/coronavirus/2020/06/07/Coronavirus-New-research-suggests-doctors-are-treating-COVID-19-patients-wrongly. Please read this Alarabya article, so you can understand that the two Lancet papers plus the NEJM paper were a trilogy that together advocated a shift in COVID-19 medication.

    By the way, in normal life (outside science), in matters of importance (maybe COVID-19 is), an employer like Harvard University would also make a statement. Oohps, I forgot, these were not Harvard papers but Desai papers.

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  14. Me again

    Utah University terminated the faculty appointment of Amit Patel, the only right thing to do https://www.statnews.com/2020/06/07/researcher-involved-in-retracted-lancet-study-has-faculty-appointment-terminated-as-details-in-scandal-emerge/

    I hope criminal charges will follow for all these authors.

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  15. Me again

    But Science magazine admires the Varga et al. study https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/blood-vessel-attack-could-trigger-coronavirus-fatal-second-phase and uses it to explain that SARS-CoV-2 infects endothelial cells. Science published this on June 2, despite that the reliability of that conclusion had already been debunked https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7237172/ (the defense of the authors referring to an organoid study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7181998/ fails because that paper only says “Our data in engineered human capillary organoids now SUGGEST that SARS-CoV-2 could directly infect blood vessel cells”)
    On the same day, June 2, Science magazine also revealed that the authors of the Varga et al. study might not be the most diligent researchers https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/mysterious-company-s-coronavirus-papers-top-medical-journals-may-be-unraveling.
    Thank you Science magazine, for protecting the people. Maybe you don’t have scientists in your midst that can understand how thrifty the Varga et al. study is. But as a magazine you should understand that it is bad habit to praise authors in one article for breakthrough science and in another, on the same day, find out that they were authors of one of the biggest research scandals of modern time.

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  16. Excellent comments and analysis which is largely correct in its detail on the USA and Switzerland professors.

    I take exception at the unwarranted slur on Professor Didier Raoult of Marseille, France.

    He is the world’s foremost doctor in his field and represents not just himself but a large team of highly competent doctors in his hospital.

    He also represents very many other doctors across France designing protocols to treat COVID-19 patients and achieve success at rates much higher than those who are content to send the patient home and do less than nothing while the virus builds up inside them over a week or so.

    The protocol may not be perfect but rather than sabotage this effective treatment it would be better to improve it rather than what has been done in European trials.

    Remember that not helping patients with serious and life threatening illness is more than negligence.

    One amazing statistic from Marseilles is that from over 800 COVID-19 patients under 70, all have been cured with serious sequalae.

    Many countries have adopted the protocol of Professor Raoult with excellent results which indicate both cures without ventilation but lower cases no doubt due to the reduction of viral transmission from all patients treated no longer building up viral load and transmitting to family and friends.

    The global figures appear to be success rates from 0.5 per cent deaths to 3 per cent deaths compared to deaths two to three times higher from countries that do nothing beyond « standard care »

    There are many other issues to this pandemic but I again thank the author for his analysis which goes beyond what most casual observers would have worked out for themselves.

    My understanding is that surgisphere is the brainchild of Professor Mehra and would appear almost too big a project than could be easily achieved by one person? If this is correct then it shows perhaps it may be a front for a drug company to use for its own interest?

    Further criminal investigation is called for as it would appear the medical mafia is omnipresent and contributing maybe to more than 90 per cent of the lives lost to date from COVID-19

    Making 9/11 look more like a pathetic terrorist plot compared to this debacle of proportions already matching most of the worlds tragedies with the exception of Two World Wars of the last century.

    And it is not yet finished and may never finish.

    It is already looking like AIDS will be a less dangerous cousin of mans stumbling attempts at emulating GOD.

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  17. Me again

    Idiot or not, as long as scientists tell the truth, we can discuss and make steps forward. However, when they start lying, we can’t fix any problem because the waters become too muddy. That’s why MEHRA and PATEL (who vouched to have full access to the raw data, and with Mehra also vouching to have organized and supervised the study) and DESAI (unless he successfully claims insanity) SHOULD BE SEVERELY PUNISHED. IF NOT, WE AS SCIENTISTS CAN”T CURE COVID-19 IN A TIMELY MANNER BECAUSE ONE AFTER THE OTHER LIE WILL BE PUBLISHED.
    Mehra and Ruschitzka may also need some punishment for taking each other co-author without real contribution.

    At the end of this post a reaction from the Director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute, Ashish Jha. It shows you how leading scientists think, and that they consider what Mehra did was normal. These people are beyond the point of knowing how to feel shame, and Jha kindly explains to us that part of the problem is the anxiety of the public. Basically, the public wants too much, so that poor scientists like Mehra feel forced to help by not following proper procedure. Typically, these leading scientists are dead lazy, so they do not take a real look at the papers and do not understand, apart from Mehra’s LYING (described as “error”), how STUPID AND LAZY Mehra needed to be for authoring these papers. Anyway, since most of them are stupid and lazy too (unless it comes to science politics), they would only consider it normal. The government and public has to understand that you can’t leave punishment of scientists to other scientists, since that is basically asking the tricksters to condemn each other. Simple, they lied in times of corona, and they have to feel the consequences.
    Here the reaction by Ashish Jha to the Mehra problem
    https://abc7ny.com/health/study-on-safety-of-malaria-drugs-for-coronavirus-retracted/6231658/:
    The retraction shows “THE SYSTEM WORKS,” said Dr. ASHISH JHA, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. The pace of publishing scientific research has sped up in reaction to the pandemic, Jha said, leading to ERRORS. As long as errors are acknowledged, THE PACE SEEMS JUSTIFIABLE because waiting a year or two for results to be published “is way too slow for this pandemic.”
    “Part of THE PROBLEM IS PEOPLE ARE SO ANXIOUS. They want a definite answer yes or no,” Jha said. “We’re moving as fast as we can in science, but WE CAN”T OVERREACT TO ANY SINGLE STUDY.”

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  18. Me again

    Is Science magazine reading this blog (I know they do, since in its kind this blog is one of the very few relevant sources)? Now they finally are a bit more aggressive towards Mehra by asking “WHO’S TO BLAME?” https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/whos-blame-these-three-scientists-are-heart-surgisphere-covid-19-scandal
    However, you can still see that they are in bed with this type of researchers, as even now their article is far too mild.
    Maybe someone should explain Science editors about the official responsibilities of first and corresponding authors. That when you ask a question “Who’s to blame”, you might consider that first and corresponding authors (in these cases both Mehra) have a special responsibility and that authors should be held accountable for the statements in the paper (such as having full access to the data etc.).
    Too complicated to understand? Maybe I can find better descriptions in the near future so that these people can understand.

    Like

  19. Me again

    How could the Mehra et al. and Varga et al. studies both pass the reviewing process of the Lancet? These studies are so obviously poor that it should be very hard to find several reviewers that did not raise red flags. Unless they only asked heart surgeons to judge these papers, but can the Lancet be that stupid?
    Does anyone know which Lancet editor may have been involved in handling these two papers? Since the papers are part of a claim that COVID-19 medication should be changed, it might be important to clarify that the handling editor had no personal stakes in this.

    Like

  20. Me again

    An article in the LA Times by Michael Hiltzik https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-06-08/coronavirus-retracted-paper describes things as they are and asks the normal questions.
    It explains:
    In the original paper, Mehra states that he and co-author Amit Patel “had full access to all the data in the study.” Now he’s saying that wasn’t so.

    Like

    • Also Michael Hiltzik follows me on twitter and reads my articles. See, my site is the dark matter of science.

      Like

    • Lee Rudolph

      In the original paper, Mehra states that he and co-author Amit Patel “had full access to all the data in the study.” Now he’s saying that wasn’t so.

      That’s just quantum mechanics. You can either have full access to the data, or analyze the data, but not both!

      Like

  21. Me again

    It may be telling of a change towards a more aggressive attitude towards Mehra and Harvard that a new New York Times article now mentions

    “Harvard Medical School would not comment on its role in vetting the data. Harvard and the Brigham declined to say whether further steps would be taken regarding the researchers’ handling of the matter.”

    It is still a soft statement, and it normally would lead to a one year discussion followed by a gentle slap on the wrist. Far too slow to have a purifying effect on future COVID-19 studies. But hopefully the change in attitude will embolden people in real politics and law enforcement to finally act on what is necessary in science politics for trying to keep COVID-19 studies clean. Scientists can’t cure COVID-19 with organized speed if the COVID-19 literature is an unreliable mess! Scientists need to feel that they are in very deep trouble if they willfully or negligently contribute to that mess. Science has been monitored by scientists only for far, far too long. With COVID-19, the public can directly experience all what is wrong with science organization. It is egoism at the expense of the common good.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Me again

    Why is this commentary article in the Lancet by Christian Funck-Brentano and Joe-Elie Salem, supporting the Mehra article, not retracted yet (!?):
    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31174-0/fulltext: Chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19: why might they be hazardous?

    Its continued existence is a risk for human health, besides just being a disgrace because it supports a retracted article. This commentary article also has its own special points. Such as using “verified” in the sentence “Verified data from an international registry”, or “well controlled” in the sentence “Mehra and colleagues should be commended for providing results from a well designed and controlled study”. In these sentences, Funck-Brentano and Salem appear to interpret goodness beyond even what Mehra et al. directly claimed. Pretty difficult, to perform a well-controlled study in 671 hospitals in six continents during the hectic of a pandemic.

    Among these two authors, Funck-Brentano is the big shot, so we can assume that he was one of the (very bad) reviewers for the Mehra et al. article.

    Like

    • Funck-Brentano and Frank Ruschitzka are close associates who work together since 2007.
      https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=funck-bretano+ruschitzka

      Like

      • Me again

        That seems to be an exaggeration, as the authors of those articles were large groups of cardiologists belonging to a committee/consortium.
        Funck-Brentano as a cardiologist among the reviewers may not have had a clue about statistics, data gathering etc. (and thus should not pretend to do understand that in his commentary article).
        But he should have asked details about hydroxychloroquine regiments used in the different hospitals, which would automatically have to lead to all the authors looking at the primary data. Apart from the apparent stupidity and laziness of Mehra, Ruschitzka, Patel, and the Lancet, there is also something more fishy going on. Normally, everyone who focuses on an article on hydroxychloroquine, either as author or as reviewer, would want to see the primary data on at least that drug or have questions about those primary data. The same with the never published Patel et al. article by the same group on ivermectin.
        Thus, Mehra and Patel did not only lie about having had full access to the data, they must have known that there was something wrong in the data availability.

        Maybe the Lancet asked three cardiologists as reviewers. That would be very stupid, but the only other option is that the Lancet neglected the comments of the reviewers and so played an active part in the misinformation of the public.
        But if it was just stupidity, how big are the chances that they made the same stupid mistake by only asking cardiologists to review the Varga et al. article by the same group?
        That Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, is such a political person is not very reassuring for the Lancet just having made an objective error.

        The Lancet has to retract this commentary piece, and release the details of how the Mehra article was reviewed.

        Like

  23. Me again

    If the next year we keep dying from COVID-19 because science is too rotten. How about giving the Nobel prize to people like Leonid, Elisabeth, and a hand full of others, because they tried to change things? Would be a nice wake-up call.

    Like

  24. Me again

    Another article (number 4) on the case in Science magazine, titled “Authors, elite journals UNDER FIRE after major” retractions https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6496/1167.full. Not much new in this article, with many sentences very similar to as in their previous report https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/whos-blame-these-three-scientists-are-heart-surgisphere-covid-19-scandal, except that the new report suggests that NEJM and Lancet should do some introspection and come with a public statement.

    Please remember that Mehra was both the first and corresponding author of the two retracted studies who lied about having had full access to the data. As an additional example of how friendly Science magazine is towards Mehra (forget the FIRE promised in their title), mentioned in my previous posts, below a list of ALL sentences in this new Science article with MEHRA. Judge for yourself whether Science magazine has the proper attitude and provides the relevant information:

    Last month, Mandeep Mehra, Amit N. Patel, and Sapan Desai were riding high, with SHARED CO-AUTHORSHIPS on major new papers in The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and an influential preprint.

    Neither journal notes submission or acceptance dates for papers, but a spokesperson for Mehra says reviews for each paper took about 1 month.

    Mehra, Patel, and Desai were the only scientists on more than one of the three papers, and all of the other co-authors are linked to at least one of the trio.

    “We can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources,” Mehra, Patel, and a third author wrote in the Lancet retraction.

    Desai, Mehra, and Patel had never before published together, and that should have been a red flag to any journal, says Jerome Kassirer, editor-in-chief of NEJM during the 1990s.

    Neither Mehra, a HIGHLY RESPECTED scientist at Harvard University and Brigham & Women’s Hospital, nor Patel, a little known cardiac surgeon who recently resigned from an unpaid adjunct position at the University of Utah, has talked to the press.

    Sapan Desai, Mandeep Mehra, and Amit N. Patel (left to right) co-authored retracted COVID-19 papers. (Note: this is not the order of the author names on the papers or the retractions)

    Mehra, author of more than 200 scholarly articles and editor of a transplantation journal, ENJOYS CONSIDERABLE SUPPORT even after the retractions. “I’ve NEVER HAD ANY INDICATION whatsoever THAT HE WOULD DO ANYTHING UNETHICAL,” says Keith Aaronson, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who has collaborated with Mehra. (Note 1: As I mentioned before, among “top-scientists”, the ones that Science would interview, the greedy stupid behavior of Mehra is commonplace and they can’t see the error of it; big chance they did not even read or understand the Mehra articles leading to their interview.)
    (Note 2: “Considerable support” shows the mindset of Science editors. They only care about scientists at the top of the food chain. If they would question the majority of scientists rather than a few who own the money, the outcome would be very different.)

    Mehra says he met Patel in “academic and medical circles” and that Patel connected him to Desai. In journal papers, including the retracted ones, Mehra also acknowledged RECEIVING CONSULTING FEES from Triple-Gene, a gene therapy company Patel co-founded. “I think [Mehra] JUST FELL INTO THIS—perhaps A LITTLE NAIVELY,” says another collaborator, surgeon Daniel Goldstein of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.” (Note: Poor Mehra, naively accepting money and first plus corresponding authorships from people he doesn’t know; his parents should have taught him better.)

    But Kassirer faults Mehra for apparently letting AMBITION get the best of him. “If you’re a scientist and you’re going to sign on to a project, by God you should know what the data are,” Kassirer says.
    (Note: How about DUMB GREED for AMBITION? The bank robber fell into the situation, let ambition take the best of him, and did not realize the gold belonged to others.)

    Me again: Desai and Patel, in contrast, Science colors as shady figures. Why do I care so much about Mehra, and why does Science go to such length to help him? Because he represents the system, the constant factor, the factor that makes this misconduct happen again and again since people like him are never punished. Because it is an elephant in the room (first author, corresponding author, claiming access to full data), Science prefers to not even see the elephant, because then they can’t avoid naming it an elephant.
    We need people from outside science to punish scientists who endanger the public.

    Like

    • No one in power will touch Mehra until he stops bringing in grant money. If that happens, he will be harassed by administrators, but they cant get rid of him due to tenure. He is the academic 1%. He needs to stick to whatever his clinical skill was and not be involved in research but he thought a little more influence would lead him to more power. Sounds like politics, doesnt it? I think any loser like this needs to be stripped of his citizenship and if he was a naturalized american citizen, be sent to a work camp in Anartica.

      Like

  25. Mehra is the William Harvey Distinguished Chair in Advanced Cardiovascular Medicine, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the medical director of the Brigham Heart and Vascular Center. Sounds pretty well untouchable to me. I’m sure Trump would protect him.

    Like

    • Me again

      Imagine if Trump would have signed off a document in which he stated that he had seen loads of primary data from hospitals around the world, and that based on those data some medicines against the ongoing pandemic should be promoted whereas other medicines should be stopped. That because of that document, for which he took the full responsibility (first + corresponding authorship), medications and research had been changed worldwide at immense financial costs and probably lives. How would “Science magazine and friends” then react?

      Trump doesn’t even understand what he pretends to stand for. Most value for research money comes from organizations as CDC and WHO, the ones he cuts. Publication-driven research, on the other hand, involving NIH and the journals, is an enormous waste of money because the majority of papers can’t be trusted due to different levels of cheating. That is only logical, because thousands at the NIH give out the research money, whereas less than ten people at the ORI check possible abuse of that money; those ORI people do not even really check, they just ask the research institutes to come up with some lame excuse.
      Can such system work? Of course not (it may be a surprise, but scientists are people).

      Like

      • Your scenario falls apart in the first line. Trump don’t read.

        Like

  26. Me again

    Who would have thought. Horton (Lancet) and Rubin (NEJM) now also point the finger at Mehra. Guess the fear of being held accountable yourself makes the brain work a bit faster.

    The New York Times wrote https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/14/health/virus-journals.html:
    But editors and reviewers do know who the study authors are, critics note, and that may bias them toward a positive review even when data are suspect. Dr. Mehra is well respected in scientific circles.
    “We do tend to trust our authors,” Dr. Rubin said. “All journals do.” Both editors (me again: Horton and Rubin) pointed out that Dr. MEHRA had SIGNED statements indicating HE HAD ACCESS TO ALL OF THE DATA AND TOOK RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WORK, as did other co-authors.

    Like

    • I think the NYT has it wrong. In general, peer review is an improvement on someone’s (hopefully honest) work. Sometimes you get a rogue reviewer who misrepresents your work and wants to shoot your paper down for selfish reasons (just happened to me), but answering peer review almost always improves the paper.

      The problem is careerism in scientific research, where people either distort, or completely make shit up to get stuff published so that they can make more money and become more famous. At some levels it may be done for survival (China, India, other crappy places to live), and other levels its done out of greed and ego (Mehra, others, Harvard, or any other prestigious university). That’s the problem. It seems like the problem is getting worse with time as it is driven by the number of publications and impact factors of papers needed for grant, so that only the most dishonest people who cheat aeough will be left.

      Like

  27. laughable way you mention Trump, Bolsonaro and Modi as facistoids! As I see tem they are just governments trying to save as many lives they could! They just believed in science as evrybody! like you do! Dr Raoul is a quite respectable cientist! Your way of desrespecting them shows your leftist agenda! Next time try to be less obvious dude!

    Like

    • If you hate someone because they lie all of the time, that would, in and of itself, not make you right or left. Its just that the Liar in chief happens to be associated with the right. At least this time around. Next Liar-in-chief maybe different.

      I’m middle-of the road, and hate Trump because he lies all of the time. That means that there is likely a large population of individuals who hate Trump not because they are on the left, Roberto. Although being on the left could help.

      Like

  28. Me again

    As for politics. According to the Daily Mail (UK), Mehra is a republican https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-8423273/FDA-REVOKES-emergency-approval-hydroxychloroquine-treat-COVID-19.html: “The study’s lead author, Dr Mehra, is a cardiovascular surgeon and registered Republican.”

    Like

  29. Pingback: Graphene Flagship deploys Stripy Stellacci to fight the Coronavirus – For Better Science

  30. Me again

    Recommendations for reading/listening:

    Though not using the exact words, The Scientist now describes the publications by Mehra and friends as a criminal deed with large consequences https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/surgisphere-sows-confusion-about-another-unproven-covid19-drug-67635, and accuses them of lying “This response contrasts with public statements made by Mehra and Patel.” They still do not mention first and corresponding authorships, but in contrast to their earlier report, I like the tone of this article.
    Maybe law enforcement in the USA can find out that not only crimes below 100 dollar should be prosecuted?
    Interviewer Geoffrey Woo produced an excellent interview with James Todaro https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HYK5pL2Z_s, the first who found compelling evidence that the Mehra papers were fraudulent. Both Geoffrey and James express themselves very well and address all the right issues. By the way, I do not share James’s belief in hydroxychloroquine, but find that he expresses his stance on that in an acceptable manner.

    Like

  31. Why is nobody asking THE QUESTION? Who benefits really from these 3 or even more retracted publications of fraudulent research?????

    Flollow the money. Imagine that hydroxochloroquin, including zinc and antibioticum would really work good. In the first stage of infection……. Then the WHO would not keep the members to their agreement of buying vaccines , as seems to be agreed 10th of may 2019. Now , due to these publications the WHO and in the Netherlands have forbidden treatment with hydroxochloroquin, zinc and antibioticum. Resulting in the Netherlands the overall feeling among the population that there is no cure for Corona infection and only a vaccine which might take years to be developed. That has triggered the Dutch goverment on one side to relieve a bit of corona rules . On the other side our secretary of health keeps stating that nothing will get back ever to normal if no vaccine is found. But is also stating proudly that the Dutch goverment is in the proces buying vaccines which still have to be developed….for hundreds of millions euro’s…..

    In my humble opinion…..these publications have delivered literally billions of sales for big pharma as these have delayed real research into real cures and the hydroxochloroquin protocol forbidden.. Creating an atmosphere that nothing could be done but only with vaccines.

    Like

    • The illuminati and the bankers are all in complete control of the big pharma companies, and their names will on all the patents for the vaccines created by the nucleotide sequences delivered by the NIH, and Fauci. And who coordinated this all? None other than Q herself: Skye Daniels.

      Like

  32. Me again

    Confront the virus head-on with superior science. Nice attitude in the USA. Hate to tell, but their science is just a “paper science”, figuratively and literally. Mandeep Mehra, top-representative of their top research institute Harvard University, exemplifies this. The mighty man has >10 papers on COVID-19 alone, two (three) of which were already retracted, and one of which includes a non-justified claim of infection of endothelia that became popular among the AAAS crowd. These papers include several ones with Frank Ruschitzka, appearing like mutual presents rather than that these men made real contributions to each other’s papers. I guess Harvard needs a large publication list, so that should be fine, right? Just don’t expect that this paper-mill will produce cures.

    Like

  33. Me again

    Funny what remains of the “endothelial cells are directly infected story”, with Mandeep Mehra as co-author (for what?) and highlighted besides the Lancet fraud awareness in the same Science issue, despite that the endothelium story had already been debunked in a published article (how low can Science go?). Now it says in a Nature Medicine review articlehttps://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0968-3, with many authors among which again (for what?) our Mandeep: “Additionally, the finding of direct viral infection of the endothelium and accompanying inflammation, as reported in a patient with circulatory failure and MI, lends credence to the possibility of virus-mediated endothelial-cell damage as an underlying mechanism.” All these authors together could only find suggestive evidence (probably that is already an overestimation) for infection in only one patient?
    Anyway, we can be glad that people like Mandeep are thriving. Any science solutions for COVID-19 in sight?

    Like

  34. Interesting post, but highly unserious as to the discussion of Raoult’ s own merits as a scientist, and value for world population of his HCL + AZT cure.
    At the end of the day, to say that Raoult is not « serious » is hilarious, and says a lot on the author own competencies in the area of medical research.
    Regarding his HCL+ AZT, well he and his team are some of the only doctors throughout the world having an end-to-end intimate knowledge of the COVID-19 infection, and they show results which are second to none. Make the comparison with anything else !
    They face a coalition of doctors and hospital professors whose common quality is to get huge $, not only as grants but also as personal fees, from big pharmaceutical with huge concentration on Gilead ( note that in Marseille, they only use genetics and do not receive big Pharma money). These do not hesitate to publish low quality studies (lower than the first one in Marseille) with much cherry picking, and lack of Data transparency) They also did not hesitate to spread the absolutely fake news of HCL risks, a shame for professors given the universal and comprehensive knowledge of cases where HCL may be dangerous.
    On the medical side, Remdesivir is proving a very dubious drug, with low efficiency, a short window of efficiency if any, many serious secondary effects which by the way are not yet exhaustively known, even if benefiting still from much support from some medical authorities inspired by the $ feeded professors. And a cost 100 times the one of HCL+ AZT
    At the end of the day, HCL should prevail as « serious » studies are published ( Usa Spain, etc. on top of China, Korea and Marseille) and confirm that this is an efficient drug with superb success rate when taken ASAP after prompt testing.
    The main point being that Covid-19 is a serious disease to be handled promptly, but which should not trigger more deaths than a yearly flu.

    Like

    • I almost fell for your higly intelligent and informed medical treatise, but then I noticed you are taking HCL (instead of HCQ). Please stop, it’s hydrochloric acid and it will kill you very painfully.

      Like

  35. Turns out Desai is a dangerous hack in many ways: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/27/science/coronavirus-retracted-studies-data.html
    Probably going to get his ass sued off.

    Like

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