Reply Wed 27 May, 2020 06:26 pm
LA Sues California Company, Alleging 'Sophisticated' COVID-19 Fraud
The city attorney of Los Angeles announced Wednesday that his office is suing Wellness Matrix Group for allegedly engaging in a "fraudulent scheme" related to the COVID-19 pandemic that was both "sophisticated" and "wide ranging."

The lawsuit alleges that the California-based company sold purported "at-home" tests for the coronavirus, falsely claiming that the tests were FDA approved. The company also sold a supposedly coronavirus-killing "virucide," claiming that the product could "build a force field around your event or even spray your entire city."
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 06:56 pm
Every Single Worker On One Tennessee Farm Has Tested Positive For COVID-19
Source: Crooks and Liars

5/30/20 9:10am

Advocates are sounding an alarm bell—it's going to get worse as the harvest around the country ramps up.
By Joan McCarter

"Every Single Worker Has Covid at One U.S. Farm on Eve of Harvest." Read that headline one more time: "Every Single Worker Has Covid at One U.S. Farm on Eve of Harvest." That farm is in Tennessee. A farm in New Jersey has more than 50 workers with the virus, and in a neighboring county nearly 60 more on another farm have been ill. An Oneida, New York greenhouse operation growing tomatoes and strawberries reported nearly 170 infected workers.

These are among the most vulnerable essential workers in the U.S. Essential because they're providing our food. Vulnerable because so many are noncitizen immigrants who don't have access the medical care and live, work, and travel in cramped, crowded situations. Advocates are sounding an alarm bell—it's going to get worse as the harvest around the country ramps up. "We're watching very, very nervously—the agricultural harvest season is only starting now," Michael Dale, executive director of the Northwest Workers' Justice Project in Portland, Oregon, told Bloomberg. "I don't think we're ready. I don't think we're prepared."

"There is woefully inadequate surveillance of what's happening with Covid-19 and farm workers," echoed Erik Nicholson, an official with the United Farm Workers. "There is no central reporting, which is crazy because these are essential businesses." Henderson Farms in Evansville, Tennessee—where every worker has the virus—said they tested the workers out of an "abundance of caution," and now all of them are in isolation on the farm. Most are asymptomatic. "We take our responsibility to protect the essential workers feeding the nation through the pandemic seriously," Henderson Farms Co. said in a statement to Bloomberg. "In addition to continuing our policy of providing free healthcare, we have implemented additional measures to support workers directly impacted by Covid-19, including those in isolation as per the latest public health guidelines. We are working closely with public health officials in Rhea County, Tennessee, to ensure we can continue to deliver our high standard of care as we support our workers and our community through these unprecedented times."
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The only action the Trump administration has taken has been to waive interview requirements for guest workers coming into the U.S. and to exempt farmworkers from the temporary immigration ban it has imposed. There are not specific protections in place for the migrant farmworkers. Last week, Rep. Jimmy Panetta, a California Democrat, and 71 of his colleagues wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, urging that protections for them be included in the next response bill. They want free testing for all farmworkers, training and education in every applicable language, personal protective equipment including masks for every worker, and hand-washing stations. .....................................................

Read more: https://crooksandliars.com/2020/05/every-single-worker-one-tennessee-farm-has
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 07:16 pm
Florida sees largest COVID-19 case increase in over a month
By Michelle Marchante and Devoun Cetoute, The Miami Herald
1 day ago


Study: 24 states have uncontrolled virus outbreaks
Atlanta mayor steps into national spotlight with plea to protesters

Florida’s Department of Health on Friday morning confirmed 1,212 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total of known cases to 54,497. There were also 49 new deaths announced, raising the statewide toll to 2,413.

Friday’s increase in cases marks the largest daily increase in more than a month. Before Friday, April 17 saw the largest increase in cases at 1,413 cases. Since then, the state has only seen case increases larger than 1,000 in a single day three times.

The state is also expected to release its COVID-19 antibody test results for the first time Friday. The data could give scientists indicators of how widespread the disease has become in the state.

The COVID-19 antibody tests have been administered to healthcare workers, firefighters, police officers and other first responders over the past three weeks at drive-thru sites in Miami Gardens, West Palm Beach, Orlando and Jacksonville. Antibody tests were also distributed to hospitals to test healthcare workers.

How many confirmed COVID-19 cases are in South Florida?

Less than half of the new cases but more than half of the new deaths were in South Florida:

? Miami-Dade County reported 245 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16 new deaths. The county’s confirmed total is now at 17,641 cases with 685 deaths, the highest in the state.

? Broward County reported 105 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one new death. The county’s confirmed total is now at 6,975 with 308 deaths.

? Palm Beach County saw 224 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight new deaths. The county’s known total is now at 5,765 with 335 deaths.

? Monroe County saw one additional confirmed case of COVID-19 and no new deaths. The Florida Keys now have 108 known cases and four deaths.

Here’s a breakdown on what you need to know:

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida

More than half of the state’s known COVID-19 cases are in South Florida’s four counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe. Miami-Dade continues to lead the state with the most confirmed cases and deaths. It has 17,641 known cases and 685 deaths.

Despite the daily reports of new cases and deaths, local and state officials have previously said that decreases in the daily total of reported cases are signs that social-distancing measures are working.

Officials are also relying on hospitalization data. Unlike testing, which might be limited or take days to report results, hospitalizations can help give officials a real-time visual of how many people are severely ill with COVID-19.

The health department says it doesn’t “have a figure” to reflect the number of people currently hospitalized and only provides the total number of hospitalizations in its statewide and county-level data.

On Friday morning, 187 hospitalizations were added, raising the statewide total count to 9,982. Hospitals in Miami-Dade are self-reporting a number of key metrics, including hospitalizations, to the county. Some provide updates every day; others don’t.

As of Friday, Miami-Dade had 582 COVID-19 patients currently admitted to hospitals, an increase of 36 patients, according to county data.

Scientists are also still working to learn more about the virus, including how many people in the community are infected with the disease and have mild or no symptoms, which can make it difficult to determine what percentage of the cases hospitalizations represent.

COVID-19 testing in Florida

Testing in Florida has seen steady growth since the COVID-19 crisis began and has started to see a steady decline in the percentage of people testing positive.

Testing, like hospitalizations, helps officials determine the virus’ progress and plays a role in deciding whether it is safe to lift stay-at-home orders and loosen restrictions.

The recommended numbers of daily tests needed vary by experts, but the dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine told the governor Florida needs to test about 33,000 people every day. The state has hit or surpassed the recommended mark a few times this month but is typically several thousand under.

Florida’s Department of Health reported 30,839 new tests in Friday’s daily COVID-19 update. In total, the state has done 984,160 tests. Of the total tested, 54,497 or 5.54 percent have tested positive for the disease. The state says there are 1,308 pending tests.

For the first time since the pandemic began, health officials released antibody testing data from commercial laboratories on Friday.

In total, 123,552 tests for antibodies have been conducted and of those 5,474 were positive and 118,053 were negative. Of those tested, black people had a percent positive rate of 26.32 percent and white people had a 13.33 percent positive rate.

Miami-Dade County had the most residents undergo antibody testing with 21,402 tests conducted. Palm Beach came in second with 19,571 tests done and Broward came in third with 14,402 tests. Monroe has done 1,241 tests.

Health experts told the Miami Herald last month they were concerned the number of pending COVID-19 tests listed by the state is an undercount because Florida reports only the number of Floridians waiting to get test results from state labs, not private ones — and private labs are completing more than 90% of state tests.

Previously, it has taken as long as two weeks for the results of pending tests from private labs to be added into the state’s official count, making it difficult for officials to project the size and scale of the pandemic in the state. It’s unclear how quickly results are currently being sent to the state from private labs.

Miami Herald staff writer Daniel Chang contributed to this report.
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Sat 30 May, 2020 09:32 pm
Latest on COVID-19 in MN: Death toll surpasses 1K, more cases expected from protests
Source: MSN

Minnesota hit another grim milestone as the state reported more than 1,000 deaths tied to COVID-19 on Saturday. As massive protests over the killing of George Floyd continue to rage in the Twin Cities, health officials this week said they’re expecting a spike in cases stemming from the gatherings.

The number of Minnesotans currently in intensive care rose to 263 — a new daily high in the pandemic — even as total daily hospitalizations dipped to 589. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm recently noted that intensive care beds were filling up in the Twin Cities metro area.

Officials continue to pay close attention to the daily intensive care counts, a key metric, as they work to manage the spread of the disease so it doesn’t overwhelm the state’s health care system.

Malcolm said that while she understands the pain and anger people are feeling over Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody and respects their desire to protest, she’s concerned that people gathering in the streets are at risk of getting the virus and transmitting it.

Read more: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/05/30/latest-on-covid19-in-mn
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2020 09:31 pm
U.S. and Chinese Scientists Trace Evolution of Coronaviruses in Bats


Credit...DeAgostini/Getty Images
James Gorman

By James Gorman

June 1, 2020
Updated 3:01 p.m. ET

An international team of scientists, including a prominent researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, has analyzed all known coronaviruses in Chinese bats and used genetic analysis to trace the likely origin of the novel coronavirus to horseshoe bats.

In their report, posted online Sunday, they also point to the great variety of these viruses in southern and southwestern China and urge closer monitoring of bat viruses in the area and greater efforts to change human behavior as ways of decreasing the chances of future pandemics.

The research was supported by a U.S. grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit, that was recently canceled by the National Institutes of Health. The grant, for more than $3 million, was well on its way to renewal, and the sudden reversal prompted an outcry in the scientific community.

Thirty-one U.S. scientific societies signed a letter of protest on May 20 to the N.I.H., and 77 Nobel laureates sent another letter to the N.I.H. and the Department of Health and Human Services seeking an investigation of the grant denial. The Nobelists said the cancellation appeared to be based on politics rather than a consideration of scientific merit.

The report on the research, which has been accepted by the journal Nature Communications, was posted on the BioRxiv (pronounced bio-archive), where scientific research is often released before publication.

The report gives a glimpse of the work the grant had supported.

The researchers, mostly Chinese and American, conducted an exhaustive search for and analysis of coronaviruses in bats, with an eye to identifying hot spots for potential spillovers of these viruses into humans, and resulting disease outbreaks.

The genetic evidence that the virus originated in bats was already overwhelming. Horseshoe bats, in particular, were considered likely hosts because other spillover diseases, like the SARS outbreak in 2003, came from viruses that originated in these bats, members of the genus Rhinolophus.

None of the bat viruses are close enough to the novel coronavirus to suggest that it jumped from bats to humans. The immediate progenitor of the new virus has not been found, and may have been present in bats or another animal. Pangolins were initially suspected, although more recent analysis of pangolin coronaviruses suggests that although they probably have played a part in the new virus’s evolution, there is no evidence that they were the immediate source.

The new research includes an analysis of bat and viral evolution that strongly supports the suspected origin of the virus in horseshoe bats, but isn’t definitive, largely because a vast amount about such viruses remains unknown.

The report also adds detail to what scientists know of coronaviruses in bats, how they have evolved and what kind of threat they pose. Renewal of the grant would have supported a continuation of this work.

N.I.H. canceled the grant shortly after President Trump was asked at a news conference about money erroneously described as going to the Wuhan institute. That lab has been the target of conspiracy theorists who promote the idea that the novel coronavirus was made in a lab. Scientists and U.S. intelligence agencies agree that the overwhelming likelihood is that the virus evolved in nature.

Richard Ebright, a microbiologist and biosafety expert at Rutgers University, has argued that there could have been an accidental leak of a naturally evolved virus that was present in the lab, and that lab safety should be investigated. Many scientists view the leak scenario as unlikely given the many opportunities for infection in the wildlife trade, markets and farming.

There is also no reported evidence that the new virus was ever present at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It was first discovered after numerous human cases appeared in late December, most in people with connections to a wet market in Wuhan.

Zheng-Li Shi, the director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the institute, known for work tracking down the source of the original SARS virus in bats and identifying SARS-CoV-2, as the novel coronavirus is known, is one of the authors of the new paper, along with Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance.

The researchers collected oral and rectal swabs, as well as fecal pellets from bats in caves across China from 2010 to 2015, and used genetic sequencing to derive 781 partial sequences of the viruses. They compared these to sequence information already documented in computer databases on bat and pangolin coronaviruses.

They found evidence that the novel coronavirus may have evolved in Yunnan Province, but could not rule out an origin elsewhere in Southeast Asia outside China.

The family of bats that included the horseshoe genus, Rhinolophus, seems to have originated in China tens of millions of years ago. They have a long history of co-evolution with coronaviruses, which the report shows commonly jump from one bat species to another.

Dr. Daszak said that the region where China, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar converge may be “the real hot spot for these viruses.”

He said the region was characterized not only by bat and coronavirus diversity, but by urbanization, population growth and intense poultry and livestock farming, all of which could lead to viruses jumping from one species to another, and to the spread of human disease.

Not only bats should be monitored, Dr. Daszak said, but humans. “People are farming wildlife all across Southern China, tens of thousands of people involved in the industry, they should be getting regular tests, not just for Covid-19, but for what other viruses they are picking up.”

He acknowledged that such an effort would be very costly, but said that compared to the cost of a pandemic, “You’re definitely getting a good return on investment.”
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 2 Jun, 2020 05:09 pm
0 Replies
Reply Tue 2 Jun, 2020 11:06 pm
bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2020 07:35 am
Amazing! Great news! Meanwhile here in the states.
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2020 01:33 pm
@bobsal u1553115,
No Evidence Hydroxychloroquine Is Helpful In Preventing COVID-19, Study Finds
Taking hydroxychloroquine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19 does not protect someone from getting the disease.

That's the conclusion of a study published Wednesday involving 821 participants. All had direct exposure to a COVID-19 patient, either because they lived with one, or were a health care provider or first responder.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2020 01:46 pm
Most European governments banned hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients already, and U.S. hospitals have significantly cut back its use.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2020 04:32 pm
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 3 Jun, 2020 08:12 pm
Hydroxychloroquine, a drug promoted by Trump, failed to prevent healthy people from getting covid-19 in trial

The University of Minnesota enrolled health-care workers and others exposed to the disease in the first randomized prevention study of the drug


Hydroxychloroquine's false hope: How an obscure drug became a coronavirus 'cure' | The Fact Checker

Claims about hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 have gained traction despite a lack of scientific evidence. How did this happen? (Elyse Samuels, Meg Kelly, Sarah Cahlan/The Washington Post)
Laurie McGinley and
Ariana Eunjung Cha
June 3, 2020 at 2:05 p.m. CDT
Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

Hydroxychloroquine did not prevent healthy people exposed to someone with covid-19 from getting the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a study being published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study is the first randomized clinical trial that tested the antimalarial drug as a preventive measure, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School who conducted the trial. It showed that hydroxychloroquine, which has been touted by President Trump, was no more effective than a placebo — in this case, a vitamin — in protecting people exposed to covid-19.

“As we say in Tennessee, ‘that dog won’t hunt’ — it didn’t work,” said William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Schaffner, who was not involved in the trial, praised it as “rigorously done.”

The results were the latest development in a highly charged medical and political issue — the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in combating covid-19. Trump has repeatedly touted the drug as a “game changer” for covid-19 and recently said he took a course of it. But federal regulators have said it should be used only for hospitalized patients or in clinical trials, because of possible side effects including serious heart-rhythm issues.

Researchers launched the trial in mid-March. They enrolled more than 800 adults in the United States and Canada who were exposed to someone with covid-19 because of their jobs as health-care workers or first responders, or because they lived with someone with the disease. The study was a randomized, placebo-controlled trial and was double-blinded, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew what the participants received. Such a study is considered the gold standard for clinical trials.

Stay safe and informed as the United States reopens with our free Coronavirus Updates newsletter

Adding to the controversy surrounding the drug, a large observational study on hydroxychloroquine that warned of dangerous side effects has come under fire in recent days. The study, published May 22 by the Lancet medical journal, was based on records from hundreds of hospitals and involved 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents. It found that those who received hydroxychloroquine or a closely related drug, chloroquine, had a significantly higher risk of death than those who did not. Shortly after its publication, the World Health Organization suspended the use of hydroxychloroquine in a large international trial testing therapies for the disease and France banned it as a treatment for covid-19.

In recent days, scientists have raised questions about the validity of the data used for the study. On Tuesday, the Lancet published an “expression of concern” about the study. The researchers said in a statement that they are conducting an independent review of the data, which came from an outside company. Among other things, critics are skeptical that so many health records could have been collected in such a short period of time and have cited inconsistencies about dosing information. In addition, the company has not explained its methodology, scientists say. The WHO, meanwhile, resumed its trial of hydroxychloroquine, saying its safety experts concluded there was no reason to discontinue it.

The prevention trial released Wednesday showed 40 percent of the participants who took the drug developed side effects that were not serious — mostly nausea, upset stomach and diarrhea. The study found no serious side effects or cardiac complications, the researchers said.

Its findings reinforced those of previous studies showing the drug does not provide benefit against covid-19.

“It’s not surprising given that there has not been efficacy established for this drug in any meaningful way,” said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego. “It’s not a large study, but it extends the spectrum from the most severely ill patients to mildly ill and now preventive.”

Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the results “should provide a very big nail in the coffin” for the idea that hydroxychloroquine can help prevent covid-19.

David Boulware, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Minnesota and the study’s senior investigator, said he launched the trial because hydroxychloroquine had shown signs in a lab setting that it might be effective against the virus.

About two-thirds of the trial participants were health-care workers and the rest were a mix of other people exposed to someone with covid-19, he said. They were given hydroxychloroquine or a placebo for five days and then followed for two weeks to see who developed the disease.

The participants were recruited on the Internet through social media. Their eligibility was confirmed with documents, and the team sent medications overnight via FedEx. Given the political sensitivities of the issue, Boulware said, it was important the participants did not know who was getting the drug and who was getting the placebo.

“So if some were for Trump and some were not Trump supporters, all that would be washed out because the trial was blinded,” he said.

Overall, about 12 percent given the drug developed covid-19, while 14 percent given the placebo also did — not a statistical difference. There was no benefit for people who also took zinc or vitamin C, the researchers said.

Boulware said that the analysis tried to drill down on whether any subgroups, by race, occupation, age, or co-morbidities, had any hint of benefit. But they could not find any, he said.

One weakness of the trial, he added, is that because testing was not widely available during the time of the trial, their analysis used a combination of lab-confirmed positive covid-19 tests and symptoms to count someone as infected.

Read more:

VA says it has ratcheted down use of hydroxychloroquine in patients

Trump says U.S. to withdraw from the World Health Organization
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Thu 4 Jun, 2020 02:27 pm
Genes May Leave Some People More Vulnerable to Severe Covid-19

Geneticists have turned up intriguing links between DNA and the disease. Patients with Type A blood, for example, seem to be at greater risk.


By Carl Zimmer

June 3, 2020

Variations at two spots in the human genome are associated with an increased risk of respiratory failure in patients with Covid-19, the researchers found. One of these spots includes the gene that determines blood types.

Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

The study was equally striking for the genes that failed to turn up. The coronavirus attaches to a protein called ACE2 on the surface of human cells in order to enter them, for example. But genetic variants in ACE2 did not appear to make a difference in the risk of severe Covid-19.

The findings suggest that relatively unexplored factors may be playing a large role who develops life-threatening Covid-19. “There are new kids on the block now,” said Andre Franke, a molecular geneticist at the University of Kiel in Germany and a co-author of the new study, which is currently going through peer review.

Figuring out the reason that certain genes may raise the odds of severe disease could also lead to new targets for drug designers.

The doctors took blood samples from 1,610 patients who needed an oxygen supply or had to go on a ventilator. Dr. Franke and his colleagues extracted DNA from the samples and scanned it using a rapid technique called genotyping.

The scientists were looking for spots in the genome, called loci, where an unusually high number of the severely ill patients shared the same variants, compared with those who were not ill.

Two loci turned up. In one of these sites is the gene that determines our blood type. That gene directs production of a protein that places molecules on the surface of blood cells.

He also noted that the locus where the blood-type gene is situated also contains a stretch of DNA that acts as an on-off switch for a gene producing a protein that triggers strong immune responses.

The coronavirus triggers an overreaction of the immune system in some people, leading to massive inflammation and lung damage — the so-called cytokine storm. It is theoretically possible that genetic variations influence that response.

A second locus, on Chromosome 3, shows an even stronger link to Covid-19, Dr. Franke and his colleagues found. But that spot is home to six genes, and it is not yet possible to say which of them influences the course of Covid-19.

One of those gene candidates encodes a protein known to interact with ACE2, the cellular receptor needed by the coronavirus to enter host cells. But another gene nearby encodes a potent immune-signaling molecule. It is possible that this immune gene also triggers an overreaction that leads to respiratory failure.

Previous attempts to find any genetic loci that varied significantly between sick people and healthy ones have failed. Dr. Sebat speculated that the new study succeeded because the researchers focused only on people who had respiratory failure and were clearly vulnerable to serious forms of Covid-19.

“They had the ideal cohort,” he said.

New studies, such as the one Dr. Sebat is running in California, will allow scientists to see if the two loci really do matter as much as they seem to now.

The geneticists may be able to zero in on exactly which gene in each locus affects the disease, he said. And researchers will most likely find many other genes with subtler influences on the course of Covid-19.
Reply Thu 4 Jun, 2020 02:35 pm
@bobsal u1553115,
Thank my lucky stars, I have no idea what my blood type is. (odd, I know considering the many hospitalizations I've had for surgical stuff.)
One parent was A, the other was B. My sister is AB.

Maybe the Covid-19 won't know what my blood type is either and won't bother with me.
0 Replies
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2020 01:50 am
@Walter Hinteler,
The plot thickens. The Lancet has withdrawn its 'big data' article that found hydroxychloroquine inefficient or even toxic at the doses prescribed for COVID. Apparently the quality of that 'big data' cannot be checked. WHO also found holes in the study and restarted their experiment.

Mercredi 3 juin, l’OMS a annoncé la reprise de son essai Solidarity, l’analyse des données par un comité de surveillance et de suivi indépendant n’ayant pas mis en évidence de toxicité liée à l’usage de l’hydroxychloroquine.

L’essai britannique Recovery ne s’était pas interrompu. Les essais cliniques français devraient, eux, aussi reprendrent. ...

Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2020 02:16 am
The Lancet has made one of the biggest retractions in modern history. How could this happen?
The Lancet is one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world. Recently, they published an article on Covid patients receiving hydroxychloroquine with a dire conclusion: the drug increases heartbeat irregularities and decreases hospital survival rates. This result was treated as authoritative, and major drug trials were immediately halted – because why treat anyone with an unsafe drug?

Now, that Lancet study has been retracted, withdrawn from the literature entirely, at the request of three of its authors who “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources”. Given the seriousness of the topic and the consequences of the paper, this is one of the most consequential retractions in modern history.

It is natural to ask how this is possible. How did a paper of such consequence get discarded like a used tissue by some of its authors only days after publication? If the authors don’t trust it now, how did it get published in the first place?

The answer is quite simple. It happened because peer review, the formal process of reviewing scientific work before it is accepted for publication, is not designed to detect anomalous data. It makes no difference if the anomalies are due to inaccuracies, miscalculations, or outright fraud. This is not what peer review is for. While it is the internationally recognised badge of “settled science”, its value is far more complicated.

At its best, peer review is a slow and careful evaluation of new research by appropriate experts. It involves multiple rounds of revision that removes errors, strengthens analyses, and noticeably improves manuscripts.

At its worst, it is merely window dressing that gives the unwarranted appearance of authority, a cursory process which confers no real value, enforces orthodoxy, and overlooks both obvious analytical problems and outright fraud entirely.

Regardless of how any individual paper is reviewed – and the experience is usually somewhere between the above extremes – the sad truth is peer review in its entirety is struggling, and retractions like this drag its flaws into an incredibly bright spotlight.

The ballistics of this problem are well known. To start with, peer review is entirely unrewarded. The internal currency of science consists entirely of producing new papers, which form the cornerstone of your scientific reputation. There is no emphasis on reviewing the work of others. If you spend several days in a continuous back-and-forth technical exchange with authors, trying to improve their manuscript, adding new analyses, shoring up conclusions, no one will ever know your name. Neither are you paid. Peer review originally fitted under an amorphous idea of academic “service” – the tasks that scientists were supposed to perform as members of their community. This is a nice idea, but is almost invariably maintained by researchers with excellent job security. Some senior scientists are notorious for peer reviewing manuscripts rarely or even never – because it interferes with the task of producing more of their own research.

However, even if reliable volunteers for peer review can be found, it is increasingly clear that it is insufficient. The vast majority of peer-reviewed articles are never checked for any form of analytical consistency, nor can they be – journals do not require manuscripts to have accompanying data or analytical code and often will not help you obtain them from authors if you wish to see them. Authors usually have zero formal, moral, or legal requirements to share the data and analytical methods behind their experiments. Finally, if you locate a problem in a published paper and bring it to either of these parties, often the median response is no response at all – silence.

This is usually not because authors or editors are negligent or uncaring. Usually, it is because they are trying to keep up with the component difficulties of keeping their scientific careers and journals respectively afloat. Unfortunately, those goals are directly in opposition – authors publishing as much as possible means back-breaking amounts of submissions for journals. Increasingly time-poor researchers, busy with their own publications, often decline invitations to review. Subsequently, peer review is then cursory or non-analytical.

And even still, we often muddle through. Until we encounter extraordinary circumstances.

Peer review during a pandemic faces a brutal dilemma – the moral importance of releasing important information with planetary consequences quickly, versus the scientific importance of evaluating the presented work fully – while trying to recruit scientists, already busier than usual due to their disrupted lives, to review work for free. And, after this process is complete, publications face immediate scrutiny by a much larger group of engaged scientific readers than usual, who treat publications which affect the health of every living human being with the scrutiny they deserve.

The consequences are extreme. The consequences for any of us, on discovering a persistent cough and respiratory difficulties, are directly determined by this research. Papers like today’s retraction determine how people live or die tomorrow. They affect what drugs are recommended, what treatments are available, and how we get them sooner.

The immediate solution to this problem of extreme opacity, which allows flawed papers to hide in plain sight, has been advocated for years: require more transparency, mandate more scrutiny. Prioritise publishing papers which present data and analytical code alongside a manuscript. Re-analyse papers for their accuracy before publication, instead of just assessing their potential importance. Engage expert statistical reviewers where necessary, pay them if you must. Be immediately responsive to criticism, and enforce this same standard on authors. The alternative is more retractions, more missteps, more wasted time, more loss of public trust … and more death.
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2020 02:40 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Not sure I buy the argument that peer review is at issue here. My sense is that LACK OF peer review (other than formalistic) is much more likely the problem. As stated in your article:

Peer review during a pandemic faces a brutal dilemma – the moral importance of releasing important information with planetary consequences quickly, versus the scientific importance of evaluating the presented work fully

Since COVID all related research papers have been published and even 'pre-published' in great haste, given that time was of the essence. But of course science is hard; error, confirmation bias or pure charlatanism (the private company that provided the big data is apparently the problem) always possible. Haste makes waste, no scoop there.

I suspect, therefore, that the Lancet thought they could cut a few corners in the best interest of public health, and that they rushed the peer review in this particular case, possibly concerned that an untested and potentially dangerous compound was being given out like candy.

In fact even the writing of the article was rushed, because the contributors are now saying that they couldn't check the data... That's quite odd. When I write a paper, I make sure to check the data BEFORE I write it, not after. Of course my papers are not written under the gun of a world pandemic.

There is also perhaps another factor at play: the big data myth. This is what I call the idea that in our brave new world, suddenly researchers can rely on a bonanza of free data availed to them by angels, magically clean and pure of any personal, commercial or political bias... :-) This is a very big myth nowadays, and a lot of otherwise very smart people buy into it.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2020 02:58 am
The New England Journal of Medicine retracted a heart study that was published in May by the same authors, using data from the same registry. That study was said to analyse 8,910 Covid-19 patients hospitalised through mid-March at 169 medical centres in Asia, Europe and North America. The authors concluded that cardiovascular disease increased their risk of dying.

Because all the authors were not granted access to the raw data and the raw data could not be made available to a third-party auditor, we are unable to validate the primary data sources underlying our article, “Cardiovascular Disease, Drug Therapy, and Mortality in Covid-19.”1 We therefore request that the article be retracted. We apologize to the editors and to readers of the Journal for the difficulties that this has caused.
The New England Journal of Medicine
Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2020 05:03 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Doubt looms over hydroxychloroquine study that halted global trials
Researchers are skeptical of a data analytics company that has not shared data.

by Beth Mole - Jun 3, 2020 1:50pm CEST - ars technica

... Amid the global influence, outside researchers began closely examining the data behind the study—or at least tried to do so—and have been left concerned.

In an open letter sent to the study’s authors and The Lancet, outside experts outlined ten significant problems, ranging from inadequate statistics, data irregularities, and a lack of ethics review. The letter was signed by more than a hundred researchers.

At the heart of the problem is that the data used for the study was from a data analytics company called Surgisphere, based in Illinois. The company claims to have an enormous trove of data harvested from electronic medical records held by hundreds of hospitals around the globe. However, Surgisphere says it cannot share said data due to data use agreements it has with the hospitals.

This is problematic for critics, who are skeptical of the data the company claims to have and would very much like to see it themselves and confirm that the analysis is accurate. ...

In addition to a lack of transparency over the data, a report by The Scientist magazine also noted that Surgisphere’s founder, Dr. Sapan Desai, has a less than pristine past. The magazine noted that Desai, who trained in vascular surgery and founded the company in 2008, resigned from a hospital position shortly after three medical malpractice suits were filed against him in 2019.

Further, before Desai and Surgisphere focused on data analytics, their most public-facing activity was selling medical textbooks. According to The Scientist, the textbooks had fake 5-star reviews on Amazon from accounts impersonating actual physicians. One of the impersonated physicians, a breast surgical oncologist, told the magazine that she and colleagues eventually got Amazon to remove the reviews.

For several years, Desai also published a medical journal called the Journal of Surgical Radiology, which abruptly shuttered in 2013 despite its website claiming to have accrued 50,000 subscribers in short order. ...

Reply Fri 5 Jun, 2020 07:25 am
There was another study , no problems with acquiring data I believe, that was NOT yanked. It arrives at similar findings, in that HXQ and CQ have no effect in palliative care during early post infection by covid-19.


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