[Ip-health] FT: Edinburgh disavows Surgisphere claims of co-operation with NHS Scotland

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sat Jun 6 06:38:51 PDT 2020

If anyone has further information regarding Surgisphere and NHS Scotland,
please contact Donato Mancini: donato.mancini at ft.com




Edinburgh disavows Surgisphere claims of co-operation with NHS Scotland
US health data group at heart of halted trials for Covid-19 treatment says
it had co-operated on ‘best practices’

Mure Dickie in Edinburgh, Donato Paolo Mancini in London and Hannah Kuchler
in New York 4 HOURS AGO

The Scottish government has cast doubt on claims of co-operation over
health data with Surgisphere, a US company, that is at the heart of
controversy over halted coronavirus drug trials.

The questions about Surgisphere’s claims of working with NHS Scotland have
come after the retraction by three of its authors of a study in The Lancet
journal on a potential Covid-19 drug that used the company’s data.

The Lancet research found that hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug
touted as a coronavirus treatment by US president Donald Trump, had no
positive effects on patients. The fourth co-author was Sepan Desai, founder
of Surgisphere.

Surgisphere says on its website that it previously “collaborated” with
Scotland’s NHS to “share data, develop clinical management protocols, and
implement best practices” to reduce post-surgery complications.

But a Scottish government spokesperson said there was “no current or past
contractual arrangement” between Surgisphere and NHS Scotland.

“At no point have Surgisphere had any access to NHS Scotland data,” the
spokesperson said. “Surgisphere are not — and have never been — on our
approved supplier list.”

Scientists and medical journals have been criticised for relying on data
from Surgisphere to write papers that are influencing the treatment of
Covid-19 patients around the world.

The doubts around the company intensified on Friday when Elsevier, a
scientific publishing house and owner of The Lancet, told the Financial
Times it would review “approximately 20 original research articles” that
contain Surgisphere data.

A web page from Surgisphere’s website, dated 2019, shows Glasgow’s Queen
Elizabeth University Hospital © Surgisphere
In a case study on its website, which is dated April 2019 and illustrated
with a photograph of Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital,
Surgisphere said its work with the NHS in Scotland resulted in a 14 per
cent decrease in post-surgical complications and infections.

“This avoided hundreds of unnecessary hospitalisations, enabling this
Glasgow hospital to deliver higher quality healthcare at a more affordable
cost,” the case study said.

The only connection between Scotland’s health system and Surgisphere that
Scottish government officials were able to confirm on Friday was a 2019
academic literature review. A member of staff at NHS Greater Glasgow and
Clyde and Dr Desai were among 10 co-authors. However, the company was not
referenced in the review, which did not appear to have any relevance to the
co-operation claimed on its website.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which is responsible for the QUEH and all
other public hospitals in the region, said: “We have had no interaction
with this company and will be asking for the removal of the image of one of
our hospitals from its website.”

The Scottish case study on Surgisphere’s website suggests a wide-ranging,
months-long project. “Surgisphere partnered with leaders at the NHS to
utilise big data and machine learning to establish protocols to standardise
care, develop cost-effective surveillance . . . and streamline supplier
management,” the case study says.

Surgisphere did not respond to requests for comment.

The company’s website features other case studies involving Surgisphere,
but few have identifiable details that would make it easy to check the
claims of successful co-operation.

The WHO said this week that it would resume trials of the drug after
pausing them in the wake of the, now-discredited, Lancet study.

Its lead author Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard cardiologist, apologised on
Thursday. He said he hadn’t done enough to ensure the source of data was
appropriate because of his “hope to contribute this research during a time
of great need”.

The Lancet said institutional reviews of Surgisphere’s research
collaborations were “urgently needed”.

A separate study on coronavirus and heart drugs, which was published in The
New England Journal of Medicine and used Surgisphere data, was also
retracted by all its authors, including Dr Desai and Dr Mehra. The journal
had already issued a formal “expression of concern”.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

More information about the Ip-health mailing list