Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is estimated that 85 per cent of research was wasted due to poor questions, poor study design, inefficiency of regulation and conduct, or poor reporting. This massive waste has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
ClinicalTrials.gov lists 1,087 COVID-19 studies, although many are too small or poorly designed to add anything other than COVID-19 noise. Of 145 trials registered for hydroxychloroquine, only 50 are multicentre, with only one providing a protocol. Drug intervention projects are worth at least €67 million, only two trials of masks and no other non-drug interventions. Thus, there is a huge imbalance away from non-drug interventions, despite it being the mainstay of current mitigation.
Many COVID-19 preprints are poorly reported, with no definition of ‘asymptomatic’, missing data undocumented, disagreements between text and tables, all of which is complicating the research appraisal. For example, the first study of hydroxychloroquine was non-randomised and inappropriately analysed, although it was cited 520 times, while a larger randomised trial showing no benefits, has received less attention.
Five systematic reviews of face masks have occurred in parallel. Just one example of waste and duplication. There are few examples of coordinated research. A centralised, accessible portal of all ongoing research and synthesis would be invaluable.