Group withdraws COVID-19 scoring tool based on Surgisphere data following NEJM, Lancet retractions

On the heels of retractions of papers based on data that has fallen under intense scrutiny, an emergency medicine group in Africa is withdrawing a tool that they built using data from the same company.

Lee Wallis, one of the editors in chief of the African Journal of Emergency Medicine, described the tool, built in a partnership with the African Federation for Emergency Medicine (AFEM) and Surgisphere, in an April 2, 2020 editorial. A PubPeer commenter noted the potential issues today (June 6), and Wallis responded there nearly immediately to say that the tool was withdrawn.

In a statement, AFEM writes:

We are aware of yesterday’s retractions of papers based on Surgisphere data from both The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine. In these retractions, co-authors cited that Surgisphere was not able to provide them, or a third-party auditor, with access to the raw data used to in these analyses.
These statements do not provide clarity on the exact status of Surgisphere’s database; however, they suggest that validation of primary Surgisphere data is not possible.

Given that the Severity Scoring Tool was initially derived using data from Surgisphere, these data being called into question also calls into question our tool. The AFEM team has undertaken urgent discussions to make the safest, most ethical decision regarding the use of the tool.

Effective immediately (05 June 2020), AFEM is recommending discontinued use of the Severity Scoring Tool. Having to make such a recommendation is disappointing – we know that there is little contextually-appropriate guidance for the COVID-19 response in low-resource settings, and the AFEM team was excited to share this resource with our community – but it is the only right choice in this scenario. We recognise that we have promoted the use of this tool, and are embarrassed that these
findings surrounding Surgisphere have led to our needing to rescind this resource. Over the last decade, AFEM has worked with healthcare providers, researchers, and policymakers throughout the continent to expand emergency care. We have built a reputation of developing these systems through informed, evidence-based recommendations, and we deeply regret that this was not one of them.

Surgisphere’s data, used in the NEJM and Lancet papers, has been under intense scrutiny since The Guardian reported on concerns by a number of researchers.

Update, 1945 UTC, 6/6/20: Wallis tells Retraction Watch that AFEM will be retracting the AJEM paper.

Hat tip: Cheshire

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One thought on “Group withdraws COVID-19 scoring tool based on Surgisphere data following NEJM, Lancet retractions”

  1. Hopefully, AFEM can get their money back (assuming that Surgisphere charged them for building this).

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