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expert reaction to the retraction of a Lancet paper on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine treatment for COVID-19 and the retraction of a NEJM paper on Cardiovascular Disease, Drug Therapy, and Mortality in Covid-19

The authors of two studies into COVID-19 treatment, published in The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), have retracted both papers following expressions of concern regarding the data. 


Prof Chris Chambers, School of Psychology, Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre, (Chair of the Registered Reports Committee, Center for Open Science and Member of the UK Reproducibility Network Steering Group) said:

“It is right that these articles were retracted. However, the failure to resolve such basic concerns about the data during the course of normal peer review raises serious questions about the standard of editing at the Lancet and NEJM — ostensibly two of the world’s most prestigious medical journals. If these journals take issues of reproducibility and scientific integrity as seriously as they claim, then they should forthwith submit themselves and their internal review processes to an independent inquiry.”


Comment just on the retraction of the Lancet paper

Prof Stephen Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:

“There is little to add following the expression of concern. While concealing identifiable individual patient data is important, there are other ways to verify the integrity of the data.  For example, data providers should be able to confirm that they have provided data with at the very least, the approximate numbers of patients involved.

“It is correct to retract the paper in these circumstances. Further investigations may be required.

“It remains the case that the results from randomised trials are necessary to draw reliable conclusions. it is to be hoped that the results will be available soon.”


Declared interests

Prof Chris Chambers: “Registered Reports editor at BMJ Open Science, Cortex, European Journal of Neuroscience, PLOS Biology, Royal Society Open Science. Advisory Board member for Nature Human Behaviour. No other relevant interests.”

Prof Stephen Evans: “No conflicts of interest.  I am funded (1 day/week) by LSHTM.  They get funding from various companies, including Astra Zeneca and GSK but I am not funded by them, I have no involvement in obtaining funding from them and I am not an investigator or any grants obtained from them.  I am the statistician to the “meta-Data Safety and Monitoring Board” for CEPI [].  I will probably be paid for my attendance at meetings and expenses for travel.”

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