Indian-American COVID19 Researchers Face Fraud Charges Over HydroxyChloroquine (HCQ) Study

Top two international medical journals, New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and The Lancet, were recently forced to retract two papers on COVID-19 due to obvious fraud committed by the coauthor Sapan Desai, Chicago-based Indian-American surgeon and businessman, whose analytics company Surgisphere claimed to have stored clinical data from thousands of patients of hundreds of hospitals as part of HydroxyChloroquine (HCQ) study. Dr. Amit Patel and Dr. Madeep Mehra, both of whom are American-Indians, claimed to be the lead authors of the papers published in The Lancet and NEJM. The drug was promoted by US President Trump as a way to treat COVID patients. The study claimed to have looked at data from 671 hospitals across six continents related to 96,000 patients. The authors claimed that 81,000 hospitalized patients were not given HCQ but 15,000 were given HCQ which has been widely used to treat malaria patients.

It all turned out to be fake. But it forced World Health Organization (WHO) to suspend its clinical trial of the drug's effectiveness in treating coronavirus patients, a serious setback to finding a treatment for the highly contagious disease that has put a big chunk of the world in lockdown.

India-American Doctors Amit Patel, Mandeep Mehra, Sapan Desai

On June 4, 2020, The Lancet issued the following retraction statement:

“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.”

Dr. Amit Patel and Dr. Madeep Mehra, both of who are American-Indians claimed to be the lead authors of the papers published in The Lancet and NEJM. Dr. Patel has had his faculty position terminated by the University of Utah, where he was the chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Dr. Mehra has offered an unconditional apology and confessed that he lent his name as lead investigator to several research papers without looking at the data supplied by Desai.

Apparently, Mehra and Patel designed a study and then asked Desai to provide them some results out of thin air to support their predetermined conclusions. Medical Journals are often keen to publish scientific studies on COVID-19 that help them increase their earnings via subscriptions and advertising. The authors would probably have gotten away with the fraud if the study had been something not as high profile as the search for COVID19 treatment.

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