Unfavorable Hydroxychloroquine COVID-19 Research Associated with Authors Having a History of Political Party Donations
25 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 8, 2020
OBJECTIVE: To explore the degree to which political bias in medicine and study authors could explain the stark variation in Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ)/Chloroquine (CQ) study favorability in the US compared to the rest of the world.
SETTING: United States and Worldwide.
PARTICIPANTS: COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 preprint and published papers between January 1, 2020 and July 26, 2020 with the terms Hydroxychloroquine and/or Chloroquine; 267 met study criteria, of which 68 originated from the US. 68 control studies were randomly selected from the same time period to serve as a control subset for baseline COVID-19 publication trends and author characteristics, not related to HCQ/CQ.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: HCQ/CQ study result favorability, with each recorded as favorable, unfavorable, or neutral. First and last main authors of each US study were entered into FollowTheMoney.org Website, to extract any history of political party donation, and to which political party.
RESULTS: Of all US studies (68 total), 39/68 (57.4%) were unfavorable, with only 7/68 (10.3%) of US studies yielding favorable results. This was compared to 199 non-US studies, in with 66/199 (33.2%) were unfavorable, 69/199 (34.7%) favorable, and 64/199 (32.2%) neutral. Studies with at least one US main author were 20.4% (SE 0.053, P<0.05) more likely to report unfavorable results than non-US studies. US Studies with at least one main author donating to any political party were 25.6% (SE 0.085, p<0.01) more likely to have unfavorable results. US studies with at least one author donating to the Democratic party were 20.4% (SE 0.045, p<0.05) more likely to have unfavorable results. Of the US HCQ/CQ papers with listed main author donors, a significantly higher proportion donated to the Democratic party (88.2% (15/17)) than for time-matched COVID-19 non-HCQ/CQ controls (40% (8/20)); p<0.05. Furthermore, US study editorial reviews were largely unfavorable or neutral (95.5%, 21/22), with any listed history of donation all coming from a main author of Democratic party donation record (100%, 7/7).
CONCLUSIONS: HCQ/CQ study outcomes from US-based research were quite unfavorable as compared to the rest of the world, amplifying the impact of US author political party donations on unfavorable study results. The intense media exposure in this US election year has polarized our society and may be injecting various forms of bias into medical research, including from the study authors themselves. We thereby suggest the addition of “political disclosures” to the already required “financial disclosures” for scientific research submissions going forth.
Keywords: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Hydroxychloroquine, Chloroquine, Political Party, Donations, Political Bias
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation