Scientists in Australia doubt the reliability of a study published in The Lancet medical journal that prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to shelve ongoing research into the effectiveness of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, the Guardian Australia portal reported on Thursday
MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 28th May, 2020) Scientists in Australia doubt the reliability of a study published in The Lancet medical journal that prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to shelve ongoing research into the effectiveness of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, the Guardian Australia portal reported on Thursday.
The WHO announced on Monday that it was temporarily halting its clinical trials on the drug after scientists in The Lancet suggested that coronavirus disease patients who received the treatment were dying at higher rates than other individuals with the disease.
In the study, US-based researchers claimed that they had received data indicating that there were 73 COVID-19 deaths in Australia as of April 21. However, the portal cited data from Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus resource center, which put the Australian death toll on this date at 67.
"We have asked the authors for clarifications, we know that they are investigating urgently, and we await their reply," a representative from The Lancet told the portal.
Australia's Department of Health confirmed to the portal that the authors of The Lancet study had not used the government's official COVID-19 mortality statistics.
The lead author of the study, Mandeep Mehra, said that he had received the mortality data from the Surgisphere health care data analytics company. In a statement, the founder of Surgisphere, Sapan Desai, said that a hospital from Asia had been included in the dataset set to Mehra.
"We have reviewed our Surgisphere database and discovered that a new hospital that joined the registry on April 1, and self-designated as belonging to the Australasia continental designation," Desai said, as quoted by the portal.
Allen Cheng, an infectious disease doctor at a Melbourne hospital, told the portal that he had never heard of the Surgisphere firm and stated that in order to receive health care data, vigorous ethics procedures are normally required.
US President Donald Trump has previously said that hydroxychloroquine could be a "game changer" as part of efforts to combat COVID-19. On May 19, scientists at the Shanghai-based Ruijin Hospital said that the drug has shown little effect on patients with COVID-19.