The authors of a well-publicized study that indicated taking chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatments could be unsafe no longer stand behind their work. The medical journal the Lancet said the authors asked that their paper be retracted, Stat News reports. "We can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources," said the authors, who did not gather the data themselves. Other observational studies also had found the drugs didn't help COVID-19 patients, but this study reported that patients were more likely to die after taking either drug, because they could result in abnormal heart rhythms. That prompted the suspension of some clinical trials. After looking into the issue, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine questioned the data, produced by a company called Surgisphere.
That doesn't make using the antimalarial drugs against COVID-19 safe or effective. A trial led by the University of Minnesota found they provided no benefit, Michael Hiltzik writes in the Los Angeles Times. The study was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. That trial involved 821 outpatients and found evidence of side effects, but not of the drugs causing heart problems. "While we are disappointed that this did not prevent COVID-19," the lead researcher said, "we are pleased that we were able to provide a conclusive answer." President Trump has said he took hydroxychloroquine to head off COVID-19, though the FDA advises against that outside of a clinical trial. Experts say the drugs are safe to take to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. (A newspaper investigation found much to question about Surgisphere.)