Brazil’s Former Health Minister: Bolsonaro Wanted to Label Chloroquine Safe for Coronavirus Use

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wears a mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic as he leaves his official residence, Alvorada palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, May 18, 2020. The logo on the mask reads "Military Police. Federal District." (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Brazil’s federal government tried to alter the label on chloroquine packaging to include a recommendation for its use to treat the Wuhan coronavirus, the country’s former health minister said in an interview with Brazil’s Globo news network, published on Thursday.

The revelation comes as Brazil’s Health Ministry approved new guidelines on Wednesday recommending the widespread use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine and a less toxic derivative, hydroxychloroquine, to treat coronavirus cases.

In a May 20 interview, Brazil’s former health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, said:

The president advised himself by or surrounded himself with other medical professionals. I remember when, at the end of a day of ministerial council meetings, I was asked to enter a room and there was an anesthesiologist and an immunologist, who were [in possession of] a draft of a probable or future, or something like that, a presidential decree … And the idea they had was to change the package insert for ANVISA, putting the indication for Covid-19  [Wuhan coronavirus] in the package insert.

Mandetta said members of Brazil’s Attorney General’s Office (AGU), the president of Brazil’s Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA), and other government ministers were present at the meeting in which President Jair Bolsonaro proposed altering the label on chloroquine packaging for use as a coronavirus treatment, according to the report.

Bolsonaro has been a proponent of the anti-malarial drug to treat coronavirus, although some health authorities say its use may cause dangerous side effects and refrain from recommending its use in coronavirus treatment. In April, Mandetta was fired from his post after clashing with the president over the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat cases of coronavirus. He was replaced by Nelson Teich, who reportedly resigned last week, also over disagreements with the president about expanding the use of chloroquine to treat coronavirus, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

On Wednesday, Teich’s replacement, Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, signed new hydroxychloroquine guidelines recommending chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus, including mild cases.

According to AFP, after Pazuello approved the new treatment guidelines, Bolsonaro said he planned to keep him in the health minister post for “a very long time.” On Tuesday, Bolsonaro said he keeps an emergency stash of hydroxychloroquine at home for his 93-year-old mother in case she contracts the coronavirus.

On Thursday, Brazil recorded 1,188 deaths in a 24-hour period, the country’s single-highest one day tally. So far, Brazil has recorded 20,000 total deaths from the virus. It is set to become the world’s second-worst hit country by the coronavirus, behind the U.S.


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