Group’s second paper on potential treatments for COVID-19 is retracted

A group of researchers in Egypt have lost a second paper on possible treatments for Covid-19 after questions were raised about the legitimacy of their trial findings — and additional retractions might be coming soon.

As we reported in September, the group lost an article in Scientific Reports about a purported trial comparing  favipiravir and hydroxychloroquine to treat the infection. 

That move followed an expression of concern, issued in early August, for a paper in the Archives of Virology by Dabbous and his colleagues about favipiravir, titled “Efficacy of favipiravir in COVID-19 treatment: a multi-center randomized study.” 

The journal has now retracted the article

The Editor-in-Chief has retracted this article. After publication, concerns were raised about the reporting of this clinical trial and the authors were asked to provide their raw data files. The raw data underlying Table 1 were examined. First, the reported baseline variables showed that the distribution of one variable was highly statistically different in the two study groups. Second, two variables showed different rounding to significant figures in the two groups. Third, for two variables, there was a different distribution of the variables when moving through the groups. It is unclear how these variations could occur in a correctly performed trial so that serious doubts must arise on the randomization process and on the data validity. These doubts are reinforced by the equal gender distribution even though gender was not stated to be an inclusion parameter by the authors. The Editor-in-Chief therefore no longer has confidence in the results and conclusions presented. Sherief Abd Elsalam and Shaimaa Soliman disagree with this retraction. Hany M. Dabbous, Manal H. El Sayed, Ahmed F. Sherief, Fatma F. S. Ebeid, Mohamed Samir Abd El Ghafar, Mohamed Elbahnasawy, Rehab Badawi and Mohamed Awad Tageldin have not responded to correspondence from the publisher about this retraction.

Concerns have been raised about the data in two other articles by the group. 

In an October 11 notice, The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene said it’s investigating “Hydroxychloroquine in the Treatment of COVID-19: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Study.”

A fourth study, “Clinical study evaluating the efficacy of ivermectin in COVID-19 treatment: A randomized controlled study,” which appeared in the Journal of Medical Virology, also has issues, according to at least one critic, who told us that he brought them to the attention of the editorial staff in late September but did not want to be named. The journal has yet to act. 

Shou-Jiang Gao, of the University of Pittsburgh and the editor of the publication, did not respond to a request for comment.

Sherief Abd-Elsalam, of the Department of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tanta University, and a co-author on three of the suspect articles, did not respond to a request for comment. 

The removal brings our total of Covid-19-related retractions to 192

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