NEW DELHI: Acclaimed medical journal 'The Lancet' has retracted a research paper linking the use of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine with increased death risk in COVID-19 patients, after they could no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources used in their analysis.
It was soon followed by the withdrawal of another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which suggested that underlying heart disease is associated with an increased risk of death among patients hospitalised with COVID-19.
"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," The Lancet journal noted in a statement.
It said the study's authors were unable to complete an independent audit of the data underpinning their analysis and had concluded that they "can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources."
Speaking about the significance of the retraction, Anurag Agarwal, Director Translational Research in Lung Disease at CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, said "the retraction does not prove in any way that HCQ or chloroquine work, it simply proves that the concerns of very high mortality risk from the drug are unfounded."
The research, published on May 22, claimed to have assessed data from more than 96,000 hospitalised COVID-19 patients from six continents and reported substantially increased deaths and incidences of heartbeat rhythm changes associated with the use of HCQ and closely related drug chloroquine.
From their analysis, the scientists had concluded that treating COVID-19 with the drugs was linked to decreased chances of in-hospital survival, and an increased frequency of heartbeat rhythm disturbances. Soon the World Health Organisation (WHO) paused recruitment of patients to the HCQ arm in their SOLIDARITY clinical trial after the study was published.
However, on Tuesday, The Lancet published a statement expressing concern over the study after over 100 scientists from across the world flagged discrepancies in the research in an open letter to the journal's editor Richard Horton, adding the clinical trial of HCQ would resume.
(With inputs from PTI)