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Dr Amit Patel, who is one of the three Indian origin doctors in the United States at the centre of a rampant medical research scandal, had his faculty position terminated by the University of Utah. He was the chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery over there.
The other two doctor’s Dr Mandeep Mehra, MD from Harvard and Dr Sapan Desai, surgeon in Chicago, are also charged with unethical practices. Mehra has given an unconditional apology and has confessed that he had written or has lent his name as one of the lead investigators to various research papers without reading the data that was supplied by Desai. Patel has dissociated himself from Desai, who is his dal brother-in-law. Patel who had introduced Mehra to Desai, has also distanced himself from his brother-in-law. The three had collaborated and wrote numerous research papers in reputed medical journals. They also promoted or debunked the use of specific drugs and the associated side effects while dealing with their effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients.
Desai’s firm Surgisphere is located in an upscale residential area which is outside Chicago. He had supplied the data that was based on the trio that apparently drew their conclusions. Patel and Mehra had claimed to be lead investigators who accessed the data and also claimed to analyse it. A study by the trio had appeared in The Lancet in May which claimed that the anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) that was promoted by Donald Trump as a magical cure for COVID and a huge number of the medicine was supplied by India to the US on the request of the US President. It in fact was not effective and had resulted in a higher mortality among patients.
The WHO had immediately advised to stop the use of the drug. This directed to a rival lobby question on the data that was supplied by Surgisphere. Surgisphere is a 12-year old company that had begun as a book publisher, however claimed to deal in data analytics. The study done by the trio claimed to have studied data from 671 hospitals across six continents connected to 96,000 patients. The data claimed that 81,000 hospitalised patients were not given the drug HCQ but 15,000 were given the HCQ drug.
However, Surgisphere found to have only six employees besides Desai. The Science Editor is a writer of science fiction and the marketing executive to be a part time ‘adult’ model, a synonym for a ‘porn star’. The company’s Linkedin page had below 100 followers and its Twitter handle had 170 followers with no tweets for the past three years.
Desai had defended his data but had refused to reveal the names of the hospitals as he cited client confidentiality as one of the reasons. But a claim that was made on its website stated that Surgisphere had joined forces with the National Health Service in Scotland but was denied by the latter. When asked how his company accessed and processed such a huge amount of data in a short time, Desai claimed that he had taken the alternative to ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and Machine Learning. He further explained that it was not possible humanly to process the data manually.
However, the experts stated that Surgisphere would have taken the services of a small army of professionals in various fields, such as lawyers and data analysts, for processing the data and making logic from them. Desai’s company did not have the manpower and resources to make such a feat.
Critics say that Medical Journals, who were keen to publish scientific studies on COVID-19, were either inconsiderate or were paid in some method or the other to publish their studies. Medical journals have to advertise for their survival and the pharmaceutical industry generously advertised in The Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). The journals charge a fee for publishing their research papers, which is exorbitant for many serious scientists. A higher fee is charged for ‘pre-print’ research papers that are not peer reviewed. But the papers that were authored by Mehra, Desai and Patel in The Lancet and in NEJM were peer reviewed, hence raising questions of ethics and dependability of medical research. A medical professional on condition of anonymity said that the racket is going on for a very long time. Pharmaceutical industry wants to make money and pay both doctors and the journals millions of Dollars to publish fake data and analyses.
There was no funding for the HCQ study by any drug company, private or public contributor, or political organisation. Surgisphere mentioned this in a statement after the controversy emerged, unintentionally giving credence to the swirling doubt. The confession by Patel and Mehra that the data was validated by Desai alone has raised questions about their conduct in giving their names as principal investigators, suggesting that they had access to original data.
Source: National Herald