During the outbreak of the Chinese communist virus (New Coronavirus), Zhong Nanshan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, has publicly stated that he “has the strength and evidence to say” that Lianhua Qing Fever capsules are “really effective” in fighting the virus. But recently, the capsule and its developer, Jia Zhenhua, have been caught in a storm. As the corresponding author of the paper, Jia Zhenhua was revealed to be in a spousal relationship with the director of the company that researched the drug, but did not declare that the paper might have a conflict of interest.
Retraction Watch, a leading scientific counterfeiting website, published a report on May 4 on Jia Zhenhua’s signed paper, “Efficacy and safety of Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingfei capsules in patients with new coronary arteries: a multicenter, prospective, randomized controlled trial.
The paper was published in the international academic journal Phytomedicine in May 2020, with another corresponding author, Zhong Nanshan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
According to Retraction Watch, the 2013 stock incentive plan of Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical, a pharmaceutical company, states that Jia Zhenhua and Wu Rui, director and secretary of the board of directors of Yiling Pharmaceutical, are husband and wife, but Jia not only failed to voluntarily disclose this interest, but also clearly marked “no” in the statement of interest for the paper.
In addition, Retraction Watch further disclosed that, in addition to his conjugal relationship with Wu Rui, Jia Zhenhua is also a graduate student of Wu Yiling, Chairman of Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Wu Rui is Wu Yiling’s daughter. According to Jia Zhenhua’s self-introduction in his doctoral dissertation, he joined Hebei Yiling Pharmaceutical Group’s complex disease research laboratory after receiving his master’s degree from Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2002, and began his doctoral studies with Wu Yiling in September 2005.
In the list of incentive recipients granted under the first phase of stock option and restricted stock incentive plan of Shijiazhuang Ealing Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. compiled in March 2015, Jia Zhenhua is the middle management and core technical personnel of Ealing Pharmaceutical.
In addition, Jia Zhenhua and Wu Rui are also shareholders of Ealing Lodging Health Medical Management Co.
Academics have long recognized that a researcher’s professional judgment may be interfered with by a relationship of interest, and academic journals respond to conflicts of interest in one of two ways: disclosure or avoidance. If a conflict of interest is found to exist in a study and the researcher has not disclosed it, it is considered a breach of integrity and even considered academic misconduct.
Jia Zhenhua holds a long list of titles, including: chief Chinese medicine doctor, QI Huang scholar, doctoral supervisor, expert receiving special allowance from the State Council, president of Hebei Yiling Hospital, director of the National Chinese Medicine Clinical Key Specialties (Cardiovascular Disease Division) of the Health and Welfare Commission, deputy director of the Key Research Unit of the National Chinese Medicine Administration, and director of the Chinese Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s branch of the Chinese Medicine, among others.
He is also the recipient of the 2020 Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation Award, one of the reasons for which he was awarded for his research on the Lianhua Qing Fei Hui capsule. Jia Zhenhua is also a candidate for the Chinese Academy of Engineering this year, and is on the list of 84 members of the Department of Medicine and Health, whose institution is the Hebei Institute of Integrative Medicine, nominated by academicians.
While Jia Zhenhua was caught in a storm of academic misconduct, Zhong Nanshan also received renewed attention for repeatedly and publicly standing up for Lianhua Qing plague.
Zhong Nanshan had taken the opportunity to answer questions and solve problems for international students in the United States, Russia and other regions with high epidemic rates in May 2020, declaring that “we now have the strength and evidence to say that Lianhua Qingfei capsules are really effective” and that “more than 80% of patients belong to the common type of new crown patients, and Lianhua Qingfei capsules are more suitable for patients with common neocon pneumonia”.
The Withdrawal Watch also focused on the interests of Zhong Nanshan and Shijiazhuang Yiling Medicine: in 2015, Zhong Nanshan and more than 20 other academicians from the two academies in the field of biomedicine signed up to be stationed at the Shijiazhuang Biomedical Academician Workstation, which relies on the unit Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co.
The website also disclosed that the whistleblower had contacted the manager of the journal “Phytomedicine” in August last year and revealed Jia Zhenhua’s conflict of interest, but in view of the “research project benefited from the financial support of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and some of the authors of the paper have great influence in the Chinese Academy of Sciences”, the whistleblower could not be named. Later, Thomas Efferth, editor-in-chief of Phytomedicine, asked Jia to respond to the whistleblowing.
On September 22 of the same year, Jia Zhenhua replied, confirming his relationship with Wu Rui and his ownership of a “sister company” of Shijiazhuang Ealing Pharmaceuticals. He also said in his reply that he did not participate in the actual research or statistical analysis of the paper, but only in the research design, drafting and revision of the paper, so his participation would not reduce the objectivity of the results.
However, Jia did not refute the whistleblower’s concerns about the academic partnership between Zhong Nanshan and Wu Yiling.