The United States has sent to Brazil more than 2 million doses of an antimalarial drug touted by President Donald Trump as a possible “game changer” treatment for COVID-19, even though there’s no evidence the medication is safe or effective for preventing or treating the disease.
In a joint statement released Sunday with the Brazilian government, the White House said the doses of hydroxychloroquine had been sent “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,” the statement added.
The United States and Brazil are launching a joint research effort that will include randomized controlled clinical trials to “help further evaluate the safety and efficacy” of hydroxychloroquine for both the prevention and early treatment of COVID-19, according to the statement.
Last month, Trump announced that he was taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine as a safeguard against contracting the novel coronavirus after two White House staffers tested positive. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a close ally of Trump, has also been promoting the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.
So far, no large scientific studies have backed up using the drug for protecting against and treating COVID-19. Moreover, one recent study of more than 96,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals around the world found that those who were treated with chloroquine or its analogue hydroxychloroquine had a considerably higher risk of death than those who did not receive the antimalarial drugs. The findings, published last Friday in The Lancet medical journal, prompted the World Health Organization to halt global trials of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
Last week, Trump suspended travel to the United States from Brazil as the South American country emerged as a new hot spot in the coronavirus pandemic. The new rule does not affect trade between the two nations.
As Latin America’s hardest-hit country, Brazil now has one of the highest number of diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the world, second only to the United States.
The White House said it will also soon be sending 1,000 ventilators to Brazil.