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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.

  • This will likely soon become the fate of many of the biased vaping studies especially any done by Stanton Glantz as he has a hard on for vaping no matter how much it could benefit smokers. I’m convinced he’s either in Big Tobacco’s or Big Pharmas pocket or both which would explain why he is willing to lie or purposefully leave out vital info in the study to make sure convincing by pushing the narrative to people that vaping is WORSE than smoking. How can people play money politics like this when people’s lives are at stake?

  • The University of Utah again. This is the same organization that employed Stanley Pons, who with Martin Fleischman of U. Southampton claimed credit for Cold Fusion in 1989. A fine combo, U. Utah Media-Based Science-4-Cash and the age-old British tradition of Relaxed Integrity. Clearly there is no learning and no standards at U. Utah. Why do the taxpayers of Utah tolerate this drain on their reputation and resources, and why is such an institution accredited despite such an obvious “culture” ?

  • As I have stated before, STAT should either disallow commenting or preferably do some monitoring so that blatant conspiracy theories are not published. The current anything goes policy does the site a disservice.

  • ‘Study’ conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Faucci’s hospital, to discredit a med that he sees as competing with Remdesevir (and maybe vaccines), which was trialed by his foundation NIAID, and likely funded by Gilead.
    Yes, follow the money.

  • Thanks for the deeper details but the question of why the Lancet and NEJM publishes these papers has not been answered. How did the peer review process miss these deficits? Is there political motivation behind this involving our medical journals?

    • Tip of the iceberg? These **ARE** the “modern” standards of these journals, perhaps? “Lancet” charges $5000 (that’s right, Five Thousand Dollars) to publish a paper. NEJM’s charge is not immediately evident. Maybe if one has to ask one cannot afford it.

  • That’s exactly what this was about. Unhinged hatred for a President that only wants the best for all Americans. The deep state is real, and deadly.

  • Yes, this is very concerning, though a separate VA study also found a higher death rate among pts on hydroxychloroquine. But I’m curious to know why STAT is reporting on this scandal while completely ignoring the scandal involving Dr. Ioannidis and the Stanford Santa Clara study. I find the involvement of the JetBlue founder and the pressure put on Dr. Wang especially disturbing. Why is this not getting more attention? I also notice Dr. Ioannidis’ opinion piece from 3/17/20 fails to mention his working relationship with the JetBlue founder. That COI may be of interest to some of your readers. But of course it’s easier to criticize an unpaid adjunct than the rock star of meta-research.

    • HCQ has been used as prescription drug for treating malaria patients over decades after meta research data did not show any grave side effects. Difficult to believe contradictions in data.

    • “Yes, this is very concerning, though a separate VA study also found a higher death rate among pts on hydroxychloroquine”

      It should not be a surprise death rate among patients on hydroxychloroquine were higher. Probably because hydroxychloroquine was being given to the sickest of the sick. The ones who were too far gone. And these patients also had significant high case of underlying health conditions compared to non-HCQ group.

      It is wrong to use findings of studies using this “unfair” design to say hydroxychloroquine does not work. The only thing we can conclude from these studies is that unlike any other illness, COVID-19 is the only disease when a treatment is given when patients are too far gone.

    • Please provide link to statement that the VA study was discredited. I see no evidence of that.

      Safety for malaria patients does not necessarily equate to safety for COVID patients.

      The only thing we can conclude from these studies is that more research is needed. This is how science works.

  • No need to politicize this, it is not a left or right issue. Rather a warning example of over-relying on data you don’t own and verify yourself and you perhaps don’t fully understand. And the pressure to publish can lead to sloppy science being published. Good thing they retracted those two papers.

    • Perhaps as as retired Chemist & W-Street I-banker I have developed the cynical view to “ follow the money”. No $$ to be had with HCQ, tons to accompany eventual worldwide vaccine usage. Perhaps overly cynical.

  • Another example of failed ‘science’ that did enormous damage to the commons. Why no similar outcome for the ‘prestigious’ Imperial College shoddy modelers that ruined the lives of hundreds of millions by touting their models for attention, admiration, and careerism?

    • This is more like politicized science, not just failed science.
      Left attempt to discredit HCQ is out of hand, including the new Oxford Recovery study that well entered the TD50 range for no particularly good reason.

  • I sincerely hope you don’t mean you support the loss of lives if indeed HCQ proves helpful, which it most certainly has in India and Brazil, & elsewhere. Think about it.

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