Delingpole: Lancetgate Is a Humiliation for Trump’s Medical Critics

This Monday, April 6, 2020, photo shows an arrangement of Hydroxychloroquine pills in Las Vegas. President Donald Trump and his administration are keeping up their out-sized promotion of the anti-malaria drug not yet officially approved for fighting the new coronavirus, but scientists say more testing is needed before it's proven …
AP Photo/John Locher

The Lancet — one of the world’s oldest, best known, and most respected medical journals — has formally retracted a paper which claimed that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is ineffective and potentially dangerous in the treatment of Chinese coronavirus.

The paper — ‘Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis’ — received widespread publicity across the mainstream media because it was the biggest and most damning study about HCQ.

Supposedly based on the records of 96,032 patients in 671 hospitals, the study claimed that coronavirus patients who took HCQ were more likely to die than those who took nothing.

It was so damning that the World Health Organization (WHO) immediately halted all its trials of HCQ. France banned its use altogether in treatments for Covid-19.

But arguably the main reason the study got so much publicity was because HCQ has been championed by President Donald Trump. Trump has admitted to taking HCQ himself as a prophylactic against the Chinese coronavirus. So here was a perfect opportunity for his many critics in the mainstream media to make him look ignorant and foolish.

This story by the BBC was fairly typical, headlined ‘Trump drug hydroxychloroquine raises death risk in Covid patients, study says’.

It began:

The drug U.S. President Donald Trump said he was taking to ward off Covid-19 actually increases the risk of patients with the disease dying from it, a study in the Lancet has found.

In other words, the MSM was in no doubt where the real significance of the Lancet study lay: it represented a humiliation for Trump.

Trump’s ideological enemies were quite unable to hide their glee.

Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted that “the science is clear and the president, as usual is dangerously wrong”.

This antipathy towards Trump was very much shared by the Lancet, which, for 25 years, has been edited by a hard-left activist Richard Horton.

As Rebecca Weisser notes in a piece for Spectator Australia, Horton has a long track record of championing fashionable leftist causes:

Horton’s causes célèbres include publishing an inflated Iraq War death toll, a letter on Gaza from pro-Hamas doctors and calling for physicians to join Extinction Rebellion.

Horton and the Lancet are also, it goes almost without saying, fanatical proponents of the man-made global warming narrative.

Last month, the Lancet published an editorial urging Americans to “put a president in the White House…who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”

This month, however, it has been exposed as having engaged in what look very much like “partisan politics” itself. The way the Lancet has suddenly taken a paper of “such consequence” only to discard it “like a used tissue” has been described as ‘one of the most consequential retractions in modern history’.

Oddly it was the left-wing Guardian that blew the whistle.

A writer for its Australian edition, Melissa Davey, rang round Australian hospitals and found that the real Australian data did not tally with the claims made in the study.

This raised serious questions about the credibility of Surgisphere, the hitherto unknown analytics company which had produced the study.

As the Guardian reported:

  • A search of publicly available material suggests several of Surgisphere’s employees have little or no data or scientific background. An employee listed as a science editor appears to be a science fiction author and fantasy artist whose professional profile suggests writing is her fulltime job. Another employee listed as a marketing executive is an adult model and events hostess, who also acts in videos for organisations.
  • The company’s LinkedIn page has fewer than 100 followers and last week listed just six employees. This was changed to three employees as of Wednesday.
  • While Surgisphere claims to run one of the largest and fastest hospital databases in the world, it has almost no online presence. Its Twitter handle has fewer than 170 followers, with no posts between October 2017 and March 2020.
  • Until Monday, the get in touch” link on Surgisphere’s homepage redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, raising questions about how hospitals could easily contact the company to join its database.
  • Desai has been named in three medical malpractice suits, unrelated to the Surgisphere database. In an interview with the Scientist, Desai previously described the allegations as “unfounded”.
  • In 2008, Desai launched a crowdfunding campaign on the website Indiegogo promoting a wearable “next generation human augmentation device that can help you achieve what you never thought was possible”. The device never came to fruition.
  • Desai’s Wikipedia page has been deleted following questions about Surgisphere and his history, first raised in 2010.

Why was a once-respected medical journal prepared to run a study from so dubious a source having apparently submitted it to so little scrutiny?

As Toby Young, among others, argues at Lockdown Sceptics, the decision appears as if it had more to do with political activism than with disinterested science.

The question is, why did the “independent” fact-checkers fail to spot this bit of fake news when they’ve been so quick to jump on anything purporting to show HCQ is effective? Could it be that they’re not actually independent at all, but Establishment lackeys determined to discredit anything that suggests COVID-19 isn’t the deadly pathogen it’s made out to be by governments around the world, particularly if it emanates from the White House?

With suspiciously convenient timing, within 24 hours of the Lancet retraction, yet another study — from the University of Oxford, part of the so-called Recovery Trial — allegedly debunking hydroxychloroquine was publicised in the mainstream media.

In the Telegraph, the story was reported under the headline ‘Researchers halt trial into hydroxychloroquine after they found it was “useless” against coronavirus’.

Immediately underneath, an anti-Trump standfirst:

‘This could be the end of the road for a drug touted as a ‘game-changer’ by U.S. president Donald Trump’.

Well it could.

Except, almost immediately, doubts were being raised about the reliability of this trial too, especially with regard to the dosage of HCQ used.

Of course it’s quite possible that the many doctors (such as France’s Didier Raoult) who claim to have used HCQ successfully as a treatment for Covid-19 — often in conjunction with zinc — may yet be confounded by a definitive study.

But it’s equally possible that Trump — and those doctors — may yet be vindicated.

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