The US has sent two million doses of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to Brazil to use against the novel coronavirus, the two governments said on Sunday.
In a joint statement, the two countries said the medication will be used as a prophylactic for healthcare workers in Brazil as well as a treatment for Brazilians who have become infected.
Both US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have touted the drug, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Trump himself said in mid-May that he was on a regimen of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure, even though the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about its use for the virus.
Bolsonaro, a right-wing leader who has forged personal ties with Trump, recently said he kept a box of the drug in case his 93-year-old mother needed it.
The news comes just days after the World Health Organization (WHO) suspended the arm of its clinical trial of the drug in coronavirus patients amid safety concerns.
On Sunday, it was announced the US has sent two million doses of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to Brazil (file image)
The drug will be used as a prophylactic for healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients in Brazil as well as a treatment for infected Brazilians. Pictured: Fluvial emergency workers transfer a 10-year-old suspected COVID-19 patient to a hospital in Manaus, Brazil, May 22
‘The American and Brazilian people stand in solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus,’ the statement said.
‘We are announcing the United States Government has delivered two million doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to the people of Brazil.
‘HCQ will be used as a prophylactic to help defend Brazil’s nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals against the virus. It will also be used as a therapeutic to treat Brazilians who become infected,’ it said.
The two countries will also conduct a joint research effort that will include ‘randomized controlled clinical trials,’ the statement said, adding that the US would soon send 1,000 ventilators to Brazil.
Brazil reported a record 33,274 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Saturday, the Health Ministry said.
It has the second-most cases in the world its death toll of 29,314 surpassed that of France and now ranks only below the US, Britain and Italy.
Demand for the decades-old hydroxychloroquine has surged as Trump repeatedly promoted its use against the coronavirus despite a lack of scientific evidence.
‘This would be a gift from heaven, this would be a gift from God if it works,’ he said in March. ‘We are going to pray to God that it does work.’
He then repeated the claims on Twitter.
‘HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents),’ he wrote on March 21.
The study Trump referred to came from Marseille, France, in which 30 patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine for 10 days combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic.
Although very small, the study ‘showed a significant reduction of the viral carriage’ after the six days and ‘much lower average carrying duration’ compared to patients who received other treatments.
But weeks later, in a statement published online, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy addressed several new concerns with the research.
Officials say they found out the researchers excluded data on patients who didn’t respond well to the treatment and that they did not clarify what they meant when they said patients were ‘virologically cured.’
Numerous other studies have found that either the drug didn’t help patients, or that patients who took it were more likely to die than those who didn’t.
US President Donald Trump (left) has touted hydroxychloroquine and was recently on a regimen of the medication as a preventive measure. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (right) recently said he kept a box of the drug in case his 93-year-old mother needed it
The FDA recently warned of the medication’s potential side effects, such as a higher risk of developing an irregular heartbeat.
And a study from The Lancet published less than two weeks ago revealed higher mortality rates among patients who took the drug, leading to the WHO temporarily suspending its use of the drug in clinical trials.
Two weeks ago, Trump said he had been prescribed hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic to stave off the virus.
The commander-in-chief suggested he began taking the drug after two White House workers tested positive for the virus.
‘I believe in it enough that I took a program because I had two people in the White House that tested positive,’ he said in an interview with Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.
‘I figured maybe it’s a good thing to take a program.’