Fame to shame – Nitin Saxena

New Delhi:  The new abnormal was the implicit trust that all nations and World Health Organisation (WHO) together had on the two medical research journals, Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) which carried high-profiled COVID 19 articles on May 22, 2020,  rubbishing the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for treating the Corona Virus infected patients.

It cautioned the medical fraternity that its continued use could weaken the heart of the patients bringing in lots of complications later including irregular heart beat that would possibly cause death.  The writers were Doctors Mandeep Mehra and  Sapan Desai, the former a heart specialist and latter a vascular surgeon, both working in the United States.

In fact, had the doctors done extensive investigations, they would have come to know that in India HCQ was regularly prescribed to patients suffering from rheumatic arthritis and no heart problem had been reported because of it.  “I am taking HCQ for the last over 20 years and no heart problem has ever occurred because of this intake,” said Meenakshi, a working lady.

The research papers coming out from the Surgisphere Corporation, owned by Sapan Desai, was a calculated move to ‘degrade’ U.S. President Donald Trump who had advocated the use of HCQ and also imported about 40 lakh tablets from India which were supplied in May first week. The impact of the content was so severe that the World Health Organisation (WHO) paused its ongoing megatrial of potential COVID treatment vis-à-vis HCQ.

Medical experts expressed doubt at the findings of Sapan Desai and pointed fingers at his company’s functioning revealing that it had only five members on its staff including a secretary and a science fiction writer.  Desai was reluctant to share the details of his data which the experts claimed was juggled and not authentic. Internet traffic called him a theorist. He was wise enough not to comment on invermectin, an established anti-parasitic that was useful in anti-viral activity.

He had written in one of his several books that ‘there is no substitute for sound clinical judgement and when in doubt, call an expert.  In his own case, however, he did not call in a medical scientist to lend credibility to his ‘theory’ on HCQ.


As the debate raised a  dust over Sapan’s clever and timely move, medical researchers joined hands with others to show cracks in the findings after which Sapan refused to be contacted and distanced himself to ward off the disgrace that would soon follow.

Meanwhile, Mehra, reportedly the other black sheep, went underground.

The medical scam has trotted out doubts over the survey and data-collection agencies.  India, like many other countries, is now very skeptical over the authenticity of surveys and is planning to collect information through Artificial Intelligence (AI).  “This would fortify the deductions of any survey and it will be more accurate,” said a serving bureaucrat on the condition of anonymity.  Another official said that though it was difficult to doctor the AI but it was not an impossible task. “If hacking of PMOs computers by the Chinese was done a few years back, why can’t the AI surveys be programmed and fudged,” he added.

The ‘scam’ has put a big question mark on the deductions of data and surveys.  India is already seething under pressure of the media which has time and again carried interviews of experts and common man disbelieving the data on COVID deaths in India.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has claimed that over 35 thousand patients from the containment zones had been tested who had battled the COVID themselves without having come to that they had been attacked by the virus.  During the tests, it was found that they had enough anti-bodies to combat the disease.

Sapan Desai wanted to adore himself with ‘glittering stripes’ after his doctored data condemning the HCQ for treating the COVID cases brought him world wide fame and a celebrity status in the medical fraternity.  But that was not to be.  The man whose name got pasted for his ‘data-based findings’ and became a hero lost the limelight within two days after  his ‘research and data based fell flat.

It is said that coining his company’s name Surgisphere was a reflection of his high aspiration.  He had broken the word surgeon to Surgi and added sphere to it which defined, in this case, his unified activity in a geometrical circle that had no end. The circle symbolized the earth. The simple meaning was that a surgeon whose name would resound all over the world.

Little did he know that what he wrote in the preface of his  book ‘ Essentials of Vascular Surgery’ published in 2016 that ‘damages arising from the information’ would bounce back on him after a few years and he would see that damages did arise after he wrote the COVID 19 papers. He lost his name and journalists dug out his past that was not very attractive.  His rise to fame was the papers and his downfall was the authenticity of the content.


Nitin Saxena
Nitin Saxena is a Senior Journalist who dabbled into Films and Academics before coming back to Journalim as a Columnist and Communication consultant

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