The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 325,000 people worldwide, accelerates its development in Brazil. The government on Wednesday recommended the use of chloroquine, a controversial topic also advocated by US President Donald Trump.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health recommended Wednesday the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for patients slightly affected by Covid-19, following weeks of pressure from President Jair Bolsonaro, who sees it as a miracle cure.
“There is no scientific evidence yet, but (chloroquine) is used under control in Brazil and around the world. We are at war, it is better to be defeated than to be ashamed for not fighting.” , the right-wing president tweeted on Wednesday.
This recommendation was made in a ministry document the day after the announcement of a daily record number of coronavirus deaths, and passed the threshold of a thousand deaths for the first time (+ 1,179 deaths in 24 hours). There are already 17,971 dead there.
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Previously, the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in Brazilian public health was reserved for serious cases of Covid-19.
The strong pressure exerted by President Bolsonaro, convinced of the effects – so far unscientific – of chloroquine to fight the pandemic, led last Friday to the resignation of Nelson Teich, the other health minister in less than a month.
Brazil, the third most affected country in the world
The summit is not expected until June in this country, which shows more than half of the confirmed cases in Latin America and the Caribbean. It is also the third country in the world when it comes to confirmed cases after the US and Russia.
But President Bolsonaro has continued to put the size of the pandemic in perspective and criticize the containment measures taken by governors in most of the 27 states. He wants to restart the economy.
In its new guidelines, the ministry recommends taking chloroquine and HCQ, a derivative used specifically to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, at the first symptoms.
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However, the ministry’s minutes point out that “there is no guarantee of a positive result” and that chloroquine, an antimalaria, can cause “serious” side effects up to “serious organ failure” and “to death”.
“Since there are no comprehensive studies proving the benefits of these molecules for the treatment of Covid-19, […] the decision to prescribe them lies with the physician, with the patient’s consent, ”the document explains.
The Ministry specifies that the public health service “has already used chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine extensively to treat other infectious diseases”, while adding that “there are no other treatments currently available effectively”.
The ten pharmacies that AFP contacted on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo were all in stock of these two drugs for several weeks.
Some Brazilian patients with lupus have reported on social networks great difficulties in getting hydroxychloroquine.
On Tuesday night, Jair Bolsonaro, in an interview broadcast on the Internet, recalled that US President Donald Trump himself had announced on Monday that a tablet of hydroxychloroquine was taken every day as a preventive measure.
The day Brazil crossed the thousand dead mark for the first time in 24 hours, it even allowed a joke, claiming that “the people on the right take chloroquine, those to the left of Tubaina”, a cheap soda.
The head of state also revealed that he kept “a small box” of chloroquine tablets in reserve if his 93-year-old mother needed them.