How Brazil gambled on unproven drugs to fight Covid-19
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How Brazil gambled on unproven drugs to fight Covid-19

After repeatedly boosting the ability of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, Bolsonaro himself tested positive last year to prevent and minimize the effects of Kovid-19. “If I had taken hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure, I would still work,” even though the drug, which was most commonly used against malaria, actually proved effective against coronovirus and the World Health Organization (WHO) Did not happen. Close A major test with hydroxychloroquine.

He said, “I’m feeling really good. I was feeling so good on Sunday, bad on Monday. Today is Tuesday, I’m feeling better than Saturday, so without a doubt,” he said Like they ate the pill and then swallowed it. “It’s working.”

Just last week, Bolsonaro again admitted that he could be proven wrong and the drug had no effect on coronaviruses, but “at least I didn’t kill anyone. Now, if, incidentally, it would have proved effective Is. Below, those of you who criticize are part of the media, you will be held accountable. “

According to special documents obtained by CNN affiliate CNN Brasil, Bolsonaro was not only talking on drugs last year, his government was using designated emergency funds to combat the Kovid-19 epidemic and even after showing it to him Was delivering to distribute. Ineffective

A vendor displaying hydroxychloroquine tablets in a pharmacy.
in May, The Brazilian Ministry of Health officially recommended chloroquine for the initial treatment of Kovid-19, and in June moved the recommendation forward For children and pregnant womenThe same day the US Food and Drug Administration revoked the authorization of its emergency use for hydroxychloroquine and despite mounting evidence that it was not effective in stopping or curing Kovid-19.

Two days later, on 17 June, the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases published an open letter stating that it is “urgent and necessary” to stop the use of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Kovid-19. However, the Ministry of Health did not change its recommendations in the following months and doctors pressured them to prescribe. (I have a PDF of the letter)

In September, the Strategic Medicines Office of the Ministry of Health confirmed to CNN Brasil that it was in the process of acquiring more chloroquine with the resources put in place to combat Kovid-19, as its reserves fell to 375,500 doses. It did not specify how much it was ordering or how much it would cost.

“The 2020 malaria program has seen an increase in the number of cases in Brazil, and as announced daily, the number of Covid-19 cases in Brazil is still high,” the department said in a written response. “It is therefore expected that states and municipalities’ demand for this drug will be higher in the second half of 2020.”

Inside the Brazilian Cult of hydroxychloroquine

He did not specify which parts were used for its malaria program and which parts were used to counter the Kovid-19, but according to data obtained by CNN Brasil, the Brazilian Army in 2020 A total of 3.23 million tablets were produced by the pharmaceutical unit. 265,000 tablets were produced in 2017 and none in 2018 or 2019.

And according to the Health Ministry’s own figures, the number of malaria cases in the first six months of 2020 was 60,713, 16 percent less Compared to the first half of 2019.

Documents obtained by CNN Brasil using Brazil’s Freedom of Information Act show that between the months of April and August, the Office of the Ministry of Health administered chloroquine to the state’s health departments by the Army’s Pharmaceutical Lab to coordinate strategic medicines Distributed 1.5 million pills.

According to the documents, the distribution was intended to “combat the Kovid-19 epidemic” and dispense the pills based on the number of suspected cases in each state.

Deliveries continued in the second half of the year even as the FDA revoked its Emergency Use Authority and several studies concluded that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were not effective in the treatment of covid-19. The Army told CNN Brasil that 420,000 doses were delivered between September 2020 and January 2021.

A contract overseen by CNN Brasil shows that in September, the military spent $ 144,000 on the raw materials needed to produce chloroquine, which pays 167 percent of its market value – a purchase that the Federal General Accounting Office Was marked as suspicious. In a statement to CNN, the military said prices had risen due to exchange rate fluctuations and increased demand internationally.

Brazil authorizes two Kovid-19 vaccines for emergency use

In the same month, Brazil received a letter from Pfizer CEO Albert Borla, urging the country to buy 70 million doses of its Kovid-19 vaccine and sign a contract with the government. Pfizer was already in final stage trials with its vaccine at this time. CNN Brasil first reported on the existence of the letter last month. It was sent to Boltonaro and several cabinet ministers on 12 September, when the death toll in Brazil was already second in the world at 131,000 and the number of confirmed cases was 4.3 million.

But negotiations with Pfizer stagnated and did not end in an agreement. Last month, when the government scrambled to start the vaccine program, the news of the letter provoked anger.

Brazil’s Ministry of Health responded to CNN Brasil saying that the terms of the proposal, which included an agreement not to hold Pfizer for negative side effects, were “outrageous”. The ministry said it was also concerned about the small number of doses being offered for the first time: 500,000, but also said that negotiations were still on.

Pfizer declined to comment.

Last month, a hospital in Manaus, Amazon State.

When Brazil began its national vaccination program on 18 January after repeated delays, it began with just six million doses for a population of over 210 million.

Bolsanaro’s government placed bets on the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine as the focal point of its program. But due to the delay, he eventually turned to Coronavac, a vaccine developed by China’s Synovac and tested in a partnership with the governor of the state of São Paulo in Brazil, which is also Bolsonaro’s political nemesis.

So far, 2.2 percent of the population has received the first dose of a two-dose diet required by both Coronavac and Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines.

But when officials began rolling out the vaccines in January, the government continued to promote chloroquine on its apps and in protocols that had not been updated since it was posted last May and where it wasCharacterization as a major component of ‘early treatment’.
When asked why the ministry is still recommending the medicine, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuelo Told reporters Last month he did not recommend a specific drug. “We protect, encourage and orient sick people, immediately go to their health clinic, visit a doctor, and the doctor will diagnose the patient clinically. Which medications the doctor prescribes, along with the patient Is a private domain. “

Bolsonaro appointed Pazuelo, an army general, after his second health minister quit after refusing to issue federal guidelines for the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in the treatment of Kovid-19.

Bolsonaro announced last May, “I was chosen to make a decision and the decision about chloroquine is through me.” The next day, Nelson Teach resigned. His replacement, Pazuelo, issued guidelines.

Jose Brito is an investigative journalist at CNN Brasil.

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