Large Ivermectin Study Retracted Due to Data Problems Ethical Concerns

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MedPage Today reports that a large ivermectin study has been retracted over concerns of plagiarism and serious problems with their raw data.

Michele Avissar-Whiting, PhD, editor-in-chief of the preprint server Research Square, wrote in a July 14 statement that the study was retracted “because we were presented with evidence of both plagiarism and anomalies in the dataset associated with the study, neither of which could reasonably be addressed by the author issuing a revised version of the paper.”

Dr Avissar-Whiting noted that the concerns were first raised by Jack Lawrence, a British medical student, according to The Guardian.

“Based on what Jack found, we have reason to believe the preprint’s conclusions are compromised, so the withdrawal was done to stop its propagation as sound science,” she said. “This is the strategy employed by a number of preprint servers, per best practice guidance.”

The 400-patient Egyptian trial, from Ahmed Elgazzar, MD, of Benha University, and colleagues, had been included in two recent meta-analyses (Bryant et al. and Hill et al.) which drew significant attention for their positive results — especially the much-anticipated Hill review. Two ivermectin proponent groups, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) and the British Ivermectin Recommendation Development Group (BIRD), released a statement saying that removing the Algazzar data from the two studies did not change their overall positive result.

In an email to MedPage Today, lead author Andrew Hill, PhD, of the University of Liverpool in England, said  that his team will be “re-running our analysis with the Elgazzar trial removed.”

Dr Hill added that the analysis would also be updated with a recent 500-patient randomised controlled trial from Argentina, which found no effect for ivermectin in terms of preventing hospitalisation in patients with COVID. The study also fiend that patients receiving ivermectin required invasive ventilation sooner than those on placebo.

“In our published paper, we emphasised the preliminary nature of our results and the need to continue more definitive studies,” Hill wrote in his email.

The Elgazzar study’s main findings have already been cited by other publications: Hospitalised patients with COVID who were treated with ivermectin were 90% less likely to die than those who didn’t receive the drug. 

Lawrence had taken on an assignment for medical school which had prompted a deeper look at the paper, coming across plagiarism with entire paragraphs copied from other sources.

Additionally, the raw data, which can be purchased online, contradicted the study in several instances. Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist from the University of Wollongong in Australia, highlighted some of those discrepancies in a Medium post.

“For example, the study reports getting ethical approval and beginning on the 8th of June, 2020, but in the data file uploaded by the authors onto the website of the preprint fully 1/3 of the people who died from COVID were already dead when the researchers started to recruit their patients,” Meyerowitz-Katz wrote.

“Moreover, about 25% of the entire group of patients who were recruited for this supposedly prospective randomised trial appear to have been hospitalised before the study even started, which is either a mind-boggling breach of ethics or a very bad sign of potential fraud,” he continued.
Other phase III randomised clinical trials continue to investigate ivermectin for COVID such as the PRINCIPLE trial which seeks 1500 participants for its ivermectin arm.

Source: MedPage Today

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