Less than a month after the withdrawal of a widely touted preprint claiming that Ivermectin could successfully treat COVID-19, the authors of a meta-analysis that relied heavily on the preprint say they will retract their paper, reports Retraction Watch.
According to an expression of concern posted on Tuesday (10 August) and announced by Paul Sax, the editor of the journal that published the paper:
“On July 6, 2021, Open Forum Infectious Diseases published the article Meta-analysis of Randomized Trials of Ivermectin to Treat SARS-CoV-2 Infection by Hill, et al. Subsequently, we and the authors have learned that one of the studies on which this analysis was based has been withdrawn, due to fraudulent data. The authors will be submitting a revised version excluding this study, and the currently posted paper will be retracted.”
The original version of the meta-analysis has yet to include a link to the expression of concern, writes Retraction Watch.
The withdrawn study, posted on Research Square, was withdrawn on July 14, as The Guardian reported at the time. The move came after a journalist and science student, Jack Lawrence, and others raised serious concerns about the work, but not before the preprint was circulated widely by politicians and others promoting use of the drug.
In an article in MedicalBrief in July, it was noted that researchers said the much-cited study from Egypt was riddled with fabrications, inconsistencies and plagiarism. The study claimed to be a randomised control trial, a type of study crucial in medicine because it is considered to provide the most reliable evidence on the effectiveness of interventions due to the minimal risk of confounding factors influencing the results.
It claimed that patients with COVID-19 treated in hospital who “received Ivermectin early reported substantial recovery” and that there was “a substantial improvement and reduction in mortality rate in Ivermectin-treated groups” by 90%.
According to The Guardian, Lawrence was among the first to identify serious concerns about the paper, leading to the retraction. He became aware of the preprint when it was passed to him by one of his lecturers for an assignment that formed part of his master’s degree.
He found that the introduction section of the paper appeared to have been almost entirely plagiarised. It appeared that the authors had run entire paragraphs from press releases and websites about Ivermectin and COVID-19 through a thesaurus to change key words.
The data also looked suspicious to Lawrence, with the raw data apparently contradicting the study protocol on several occasions.
“The authors claimed to have done the study only on 18-80 year olds, but at least three patients in the dataset were under 18,” Lawrence said. “The authors claimed they conducted the study between the 8 June and 20 September 2020, however most of the patients who died were admitted into hospital and died before 8 June, according to the raw data. The data was also terribly formatted, and includes one patient who left hospital on the non-existent date of 31/06/2020.”
At present, the US National Institutes of Health COVID-19 guidelines cite "insufficient data" to either recommend for or against use of Ivermectin, and have called for more research and clinical trials on the subject.
In South Africa, the drug has been made available for use on "compassionate grounds', via application to the medicines regulator.
According to The Times reporting on a webinar hosted by Project ECHO and the National Health Laboratory Service in February this year, Professor Ian Sanne, the director of Right to Care, said: “I don't understand how Ivermectin would work because it would require doses a hundredfold the dose in the studies. Also, where does it fit in the cascade of treatment?”
And The Conversation writes: Ivermectin was identified as a potential COVID-19 treatment based on experiments in isolated cells and animals. The initial lab studies into Ivermectin’s effect on the coronavirus involved very high concentrations of the drug. These were many times higher than can be achieved in the body at doses recommended to treat parasites.
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