Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. 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 with a screenshot on both articles, retraction in both The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine

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 (May 22) which claimed that hydroxychloroquine increased mortality in COVID-19 and caused arrhythmias was retracted yesterday.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

Antimalarial chemoprophylaxis for forest goers could help accelerate malaria elimination in Cambodia

Giving people antimalarials during and after visiting the forest reduced their risk of contracting malaria 6-fold, and could be the missing piece towards eliminating malaria in Asia-Pacific and South America, say Mahidol and Oxford University researchers in a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Four CTMGH researchers awarded full professorships

We are delighted to announce that four of our researchers have been awarded the title of Professor, in recognition of their research achievements, contribution to teaching, and contribution to the general work of the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford.

INTERBIO-21st study findings could help predict infants at risk of obesity

Fetal abdomen growth and the mother’s blood fat metabolites very early in pregnancy influence a child’s weight, body fat, vision and neurodevelopment at 2 years of age

Using mathematical modelling to fight malaria

Researchers have created a mathematical model to predict genetic resistance to antimalarial drugs in Africa to manage one of the biggest threats to global malarial control.

MORU hepatitis work focusses on preventing mother-to-child transmission, high-at-risk populations, and remote communities

MORU Tropical Health Network researchers in Southeast Asia study various aspects of hepatitis B and C, infections that can lead to chronic liver diseases, and complications like liver cancer or cirrhosis. Researchers at MOCRU work on treatment for hepatitis C, a frequent opportunistic infection in HIV patients. MORU’s Clinical Pharmacology conducts two trials on possible treatments of hepatitis C. Hepatitis B is frequently transmitted from mother to child at birth, and SMRU researchers study mothers’ knowledge and behaviour, as well as prevention.

Incomplete reporting of COVID-19 disease severity criteria compromises meta-analysis

Patients affected by COVID-19 should be treated according to the severity of their disease. However, not all key national or international organisations define severity in the same way. This imprecision in severity assessment compromises the validity of some therapeutic recommendations. Using individual patient data would better guide and improve therapeutic recommendations for COVID-19.