Skip to main content

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

Dr Sapan Desai
By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.
The paper, published on May 22, co-authored by Dr Desai with Dr Prof Mandeep R Mehra (first author), Prof Frank Ruschitzka and Amit N Patel, puts to question the drug’s efficacy in the fight against Covid-19, suggesting it has an adverse impact on patients. The data released in the paper are  considered a major reason why the World Health Organization (WHO) and research institutes around the world decided to halt the drug’s trials.
The controversy around Dr Desai is found reflected in an investigation in “The Guardian”, which states, a tiny US company, Surgisphere, headed by Dr Desai, was “behind flawed data” leading WHO and governments to change their health policy vis-a-vis the Trump-touted “wonder drug”. WHO, however, announced resumption of the drug’s global trial following its data safety monitoring committee found there was “no increased risk of death” from the drug.
While Dr Desai’s India connection isn’t easily available, Enacademic.com, a site having links to reference materials/dictionaries and encyclopedias, does notes his Gujarat connection: That he is “the founder and Director of the New India Charity Endeavor (NICE), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization", which funded an NGO that "dedicated to improving the lives of the impoverished in the state of Gujarat, India.”
While no information is available on the NGO site on or about Dr Desai’s India connection, Enacademic.com is apparently the only spot where it is suggested that, through NICE, Desai, during his student days may have “worked with scientists, engineers, physicians, and politicians in India to improve the quality of life of the most under-represented groups of people in India.”
“The construction of an irrigation system, shared water supply, and shelters for more than 300 people was completed in 2002. The construction of a modern library with computer and satellite access was completed in 2005”, claims Enacademic.com, adding, there were also plans to build a modern hospital “serving the most needy.”
The NGO site's opening page
An effort to enter into the NGO site (http://www.desaifoundation.com/), however, was a non-starter. On being opened, it states, “Oops This Page Could Not be Found!”, though further clicks takes one to medical activities of Surgisphere, though there is no information on India. The site has Surgisphere logo on the top left, and its design is similar to that of Surgisphere. As for NICE, it does not seem to have a web presence. The NGO site says at the bottom "Copyright © 2007 - 2020 Surgisphere Corporation." Dr Desai, presumably, abandoned his NGO activity in Gujarat.
Born in 1979, Dr Desai, who speaks in Spanish, Gujarati and English, appears to have had a chequered academic career. MD, PhD, MBA, FACS, CLSSMBB, and currently CEO of the Surgisphere Corporation, he obtained his MD and PhD in anatomy and cell biology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, MBA in healthcare management from the Western Governors University, and completed his general surgery training at Duke University, where he was faculty in 2011-2014.
The Guardian says, the tiny US company of Dr Desai was behind flawed data leading WHO and governments to change their health policy
“The Guardian” investigation, referring to the “Lancet” study, says, “The US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive (Dr Desai), but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology.”
Making serious allegations against Dr Desai and the firm he heads, “The Guardian” claims, “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. Another employee listed as a marketing executive is an adult model and events hostess.”
“The Guardian” continues, “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 (June 3)... 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.”
It adds, “Until Monday (June 1), 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.”
“The Guardian” says, “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.”
Lancet editor Rchard Horton
“The Guardian” states, “An examination of Desai’s background found that the vascular surgeon has been named in three medical malpractice suits in the US, two of them filed in November 2019. In one case, a lawsuit filed by a patient, Joseph Vitagliano, accused Desai and Northwest Community Hospital in Illinois, where he worked until recently, of being ‘careless and negligent’, leading to permanent damage following surgery.”
After WHO decided to reverse its decision on hydroxychloroquine, “Desai’s Wikipedia page has been deleted following questions about Surgisphere and his history, first raised in 2010”, “The Guardian says. Meanwhile, “Lancet” editor Richard Horton has been quoted as saying, “Given the questions raised about the reliability of the data gathered by Surgisphere, we have issued an Expression of Concern, pending further investigation.”
“An independent data audit is currently underway and we trust that this review, which should be completed within the next week, will tell us more about the status of the findings reported in the paper by Mandeep Mehra and colleagues”, adds Horton.

Comments

OEHNI said…
The article gives good information. Lancet has retracted the paper published by it
Indian have brains but they are often misused. That said, it is not right to fool around with serious concerns specially in such times as at present.

TRENDING

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Joblessness, saffronisation, corporatisation of education: BJP 'squarely responsible'

Counterview Desk  In an open appeal to youth and students across India, several student and youth organizations from across India have said that the ruling party is squarely accountable for the issues concerning the students and the youth, including expensive education and extensive joblessness.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

India's "welcome" proposal to impose sin tax on aerated drinks is part of to fight growing sugar consumption

By Amit Srivastava* A proposal to tax sugar sweetened beverages like tobacco in India has been welcomed by public health advocates. The proposal to increase sin taxes on aerated drinks is part of the recommendations made by India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the parliament of India.

Why it's only Modi ki guarantee, not BJP's, and how Varanasi has seen it up-close

"Development" along Ganga By Rosamma Thomas*  I was in Varanasi in this April, days before polling began for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There are huge billboards advertising the Member of Parliament from Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The only image on all these large hoardings is of the PM, against a saffron background. It is as if the very person of Modi is what his party wishes to showcase.