The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been drawn into controversy of wrong decision on coronavirus control across the world relying on flawed database of research group. This controversy further questioned the competence of WHO to make valid decisions on the COVID-19 pandemic management. An investigation by the Guardian Australia had revealed the US-based research firm, Surgisphere, which leading staff were identified to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, generated analytical data for multiple studies on Covid-19 which was co-authored by the chief executive. The investigation revealed that the group has failed to adequately explain its data or methodology. While struggling with the validity of their research, Surgisphere database was utilized for publications in Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine hydroxychloroquine studies.
WHO and some countries around the world relied on the controversial database to alter their health policies on Covid-19 treatments; the data from the little-known US healthcare analytics company was said to be flawed; and subsequently raised questions on the validity or integrity of major studies on coronavirus published in several world’s most prestigious medical journals since the outbreak of the pandemic all over the world. This culminated in the rash decision by WHO to halt the treatment of coronavirus with hydroxychloroquine.
The investigation by Guardian revealed that the firm claimed to have generated data legitimately from over 1,000 hospitals across the world in making the scientific analysis and publications that misled Latin American countries into altering their Covid-19 treatment policies; including the halting of hydroxychloroquine trial treatment. However, after the intellectual fraud and analytical deficits were exposed by the Guardian investigation, WHO last Wednesday reversed its order and directing that the trial treatment of COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine s should resume.
The chief executive of Surgisphere, Sapan Desai, had co-authored studies published in the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, relying on Surgisphere data.
The investigation by the Guardian, compelled to Lancet release an “expression of concern” on its study published in the two world leading journals on medicine. The New England Journal of Medicine was said to have also expressed similar concern.
The reliability of the Surgisphere database is being questioned by an independent audit commissioned by authors outside the firm on the provenance and validity of the data.
The Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had at a press conference last Wednesday, indicated that the organization would resume global trial of hydroxychloroquine in treating coronavirus, noting that its data safety monitoring committee detected that there is no increased risk of death for patients being administered hydroxychloroquine in handling COVID-19 cases.
WHO approved the sustenance of Solidarity trials investigating several potential drug treatments for coronavirus across the world. Over 3,500 patients were identified to have been subjected to trial treatments in 35 countries.
Tedros was cited to have stated at the conference: “On the basis of the available mortality data, the members of the committee recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol.
“The executive group received this recommendation and endorsed continuation of all arms of the Solidarity trial, including hydroxychloroquine.”
The falsehood in Surgisphere study
The Surgisphere database relied on in the Lancet study, that Desai was identified as co-author, published a peer-review work on May 22, claiming that the antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, has correlation with high mortality rate in persons infected by coronavirus, including increased heart problems.
The Lancet study assumed to have analysed Surgisphere data samples derived from about 96,000 coronavirus patients receiving medical attention in 671 hospitals contained in their 1,200 hospitals database across the world, identified to have been treated with hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with antibiotics.
WHO fell to the false claims in ordering immediate halt in the use of hydroxychloroquine in global trials.
However, the investigation by Guardian Australia exposed the inherent fallacy in the database utilized for the study. The researchers were said to have collected data through Surgisphere from five hospitals, recording 600 Australian Covid-19 patients and 73 Australian deaths as of 21 April.
The investigation detected that data from Johns Hopkins University shows that Australia recorded 67 Covid-19 deaths as of 21 April; the figure rose to 73 on 23 April. However, Desai had put up a defence that one Asian hospital was accidentally included in the Australian data, leading to an overestimate of cases there. Thus, it was obvious that the study relied on inaccurate data.
Five hospitals in Melbourne and two in Sydney that would have provided good number of patients for the database in the study were contacted by the investigators but were said to have “denied any role in such a database;” and that “they had never heard of Surgisphere.”
Also, further study co-authored by Desai, published online in the Social Science Research Network e-library, before peer-review or publication in a medical journal, adopting the Surgisphere database, claimed that an anti-parasite drug, ivermectin, “reduced death rates in severely ill Covid-19 patients.”
The Peruvian government relied on that finding to include ivermectin in the country’s national policy on coronavirus therapeutic guidelines.
The common denominator in all the controversies, is that the infections status of coronavirus does not go beyond malaria. Invariably, WHO and other infectious diseases experts may have been feeding the world population with spurious information of deadly symptoms of coronavirus to cause unnecessary panic, palpable fear and uncertainty for undisclosed global goal.
In Nigeria, some persons taken into coronavirus isolation centres after being detected to have tested positive, on coming after confirmed to have tested negative within the short duration of isolation, demanded explanation from the Nigerian Ministry of Health, NCDC and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on the difference between coronavirus and malaria. The explanation being sought was a reaction to the inside activities of administering malaria drugs in treating the said coronavirus while spreading information outside of deadly symptoms of the virus and associated high risks of infection or spread.
The Surgisphere database controversies and misinformation clear the coast for suspicions, disbelief, and distrust of information managers of coronavirus including WHO, and all the acclaimed experts, as well as their ulterior motive. The level of deception appears to be higher than the level of reality of coronavirus; managers of coronavirus cases appear to be surreptitiously handling malaria cases, at least in Nigeria, under the guise of handling coronavirus pandemic to justify continuous lockdown and perceived enrichment from the national treasury.
It is curious that while the Surgisphere database has not been made public, their submissions prompted WHO and several governments in the world into misleading public policy decisions.
The investigation revealed that Desai had admitted: “Surgisphere serves as a data aggregator and performs data analysis on this data. “We are not responsible for the source data, thus, the labor intensive task required for exporting the data from an Electronic Health Records, converting it into the format required by our data dictionary, and fully deidentifying the data is done by the healthcare partner.”
Also, Peter Ellis, Chief Data Scientist of Nous Group, an international management consultancy that does data integration projects for government departments, had pointed out that Surgisphere database was “almost certainly a scam”.
“It is not something that any hospital could realistically do.
“De-identifying is not just a matter of knocking off the patients’ names, it is a big and difficult process. I doubt hospitals even have capability to do it appropriately. It is the sort of thing national statistics agencies have whole teams working on, for years,” he had declared.
Invariably, WHO has been exposed to transparency and integrity questions in handling the coronavirus pandemic crisis across the world.