The University of Utah has “mutually agreed” to terminate the faculty appointment of Amit Patel, who was among the authors of two retracted papers on Covid-19 and who appears to have played a key role in involving a little-known company that has ignited a firestorm of controversy.

The terminated position was an unpaid adjunct appointment with the Department of Biomedical Engineering,” a university spokesperson told STAT. Patel had listed the affiliation on both papers, published in the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine. The spokesperson  declined to comment on whether the decision was related to the retractions.

“The University of Utah does not comment on reasons surrounding termination of academic appointments,” the spokesperson said. 

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Late Sunday, after publication of this story, Patel tweeted he had “verbally terminated” his affiliation with the University of Utah a week ago, and that the relationship had ended formally this past Friday. “There is a much bigger story for which I still do not have the information,” he wrote.

The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine both announced the retraction of papers on which Patel was a co-author within hours on Thursday. The paper in the Lancet, in particular, received widespread attention because it raised safety concerns about the drug hydroxychloroquine based on what was purported to be a huge amount of data collected from health records from hundreds of hospitals all around the world. 

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Among other consequences of the paper, the World Health Organization paused enrollment of part of a clinical trial meant to test the drug. 

The lead author was Mandeep Mehra, the medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation. Along with his co-authors, he had received the data from a small company known as Surgisphere, run by CEO Sapan Desai.

How did Mehra meet Desai, and become connected to Surgisphere? “Dr. Patel introduced them,” a spokesperson for the Brigham told STAT. The spokesperson said Mehra knew Patel “through academic and medical circles.”

In his tweets on Sunday, Patel said that he was related to Dr. Desai by marriage. “That’s old news,” he wrote. “Many people from the Brigham were at that wedding, and media knew about it.” The bigger story, he wrote, was that despite requests from other authors for data, he does not have information from Surgisphere, he wrote. On Friday, STAT had asked Mehra if Patel and Desai were brothers-in-law. “Dr. Mehra indicated that he learned of that relationship today,” Mehra’s spokesperson said.

After independent researchers raised questions about the papers, Surgisphere issued a statement defending its work. Both the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed the papers, and then issued expressions of concern. The retractions were issued after Surgisphere said it could not share its data with an independent institute Mehra had contacted to audit the data. 

Mehra said through the spokesperson that Surgisphere claimed to possess certification for data acquisition, data warehousing, data analytics, and data reporting from the International Standards Organization.

“I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use,” Mehra said in a statement. “For that, and for all the disruptions — both directly and indirectly — I am truly sorry.”

Surgisphere has not issued a statement since the retractions were made. Desai did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.

  • Sad but true
    If you think this is the first incident of scientific hijinks, you need only dig into the diet heart hypothesis.
    Just Google it
    You know it, although you likely didn’t recognize the term.
    It’s AKA
    Fat causes heart disease (by raising Cholesterol)
    Dr Ancel Keys
    Seven Countries Study
    Compare to the reanalysis of:
    Minnesota Coronary Experiment published in the BMJ.
    ONE entirely observational, excluded contrary data
    THE OTHER, a very well done RCT
    One became official medical criteria and nutrition advice
    The other is ignored
    Two studies
    Same researcher
    Differing conclusions

    You can guess which one took precedent.

    Sadly,
    These type of things happen constantly and while it disgusts me, I’m glad to see it had caused acedemia to begin to question how to ensure studies that get published are worth the paper they’re printed on, accurate and unbiased.
    This one is certainly only worth the paper if it’s toilet paper.

    As for this present situation
    It’s incredibly vulgar that notoriety, funding, politics- whichever you choose to follow-
    Was the primary focus here, rather than understanding with the potential of saving lives.

    We can’t know, what we don’t test.
    We can’t know definitively, if it isn’t exhaustively tested.

    In the future, our descendants will face another pandemic.
    They’ll look to us for guidance.
    What they will find is chaos, confusion, obfuscation, conspiracy theories and very little true data, and they will be left with a clear example of how NOT to respond to a pandemic.
    They will read our response much as we now read of the 1918 pandemic.
    Estimates. Guesses. Maybe so’s.
    And their thoughts will likely be
    What a bunch of dumba**es!

    • I’d love to add to what you just said, but that would be like criticizing Leonardo daVinci’s Mona Lisa: there’s just no reason to. So I’ll add a “hear hear “!

  • Anti-Trump science-activists (not scientists) trying to discredit the President of the United States. Disgraceful

    • That comment made no sense. I got a PhD in life sciences. This is my last comment in this thread, I am pretty disappointed in STAT.

    • These “experts” have no shame. COVID-19, unlike any other disease, is the only disease where doctors are required to treat when patients are too far gone.

      They want people to die because it is an election year. And a lot of the people who are dying are African-Americans. Blacks are being kneed by dirty cops, “experts” and the HCQ-hating/Trump-hating media.

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