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US sends two million doses of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil as COVID-19 cases surge

World Health Organisation temporarily stopped the clinical trials of the medicine last week after fears that it may in fact worsen coronavirus patient’s outcomes.

SNS | New Delhi |

As Brazil becomes second-most affected country due to coronavirus, the United States has delivered two million doses of the antimalarial medicine hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to it to fight COVID-19, the White House said Sunday.

However, the drug has not been proven effective against the coronavirus. “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,” a statement said.

It should be noted that the drug was imported from India in April after US President Donald Trump in an apparent warning had said that “there may be retaliation” if India does not agree to export Hydroxychloroquine. Trump during a phone call in April, asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lift the hold on American order of the anti-malarial drug, of which India is the major producer. India, which manufactures 70 per cent of the world’s supply of hydroxychloroquine, lifted the ban on April 7, 2020.

The US acquired 29 million doses of Hydroxychloroquine from India in April. At the request of President Donald Trump, India also cleared the export of 35.82 lakh tablets of hydroxychloroquine to the US along with nine metric tons of active pharmaceutical ingredient or API required in the manufacturing of the drug.

White House said the US would soon also send 1,000 ventilators to Brazil, the epicenter of South America’s outbreak with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases. “We are also announcing a joint United States-Brazilian research effort that will include randomized controlled clinical trials,” it added.

President Donald Trump has been endorsing the use of HCQ, which has been used to treat malaria for decades as well as the autoimmune disorders lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. He has previously said he is taking it himself in the hope of avoiding infection with the virus.

There is currently no evidence from a randomized controlled trial (RCT), considered the gold standard of clinical investigation, for HCQ’s use either to treat or prevent COVID-19.

There are also fears that it may in fact worsen coronavirus patient’s outcomes after World Health Organisation temporarily stopped the clinical trials of the medicine last week.

A paper published in The Lancet medical journal last week concluded that treating people who have COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine and a related compound chloroquine did not help them and might have increased the risk of abnormal heart rhythms and death.

The Food and Drug Administration has asked doctors not to prescribe it widely or outside of several clinical trials that are underway. Like Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is an advocate of HCQ and has sacked two health ministers who clashed with him over his desire to expand its use.

Despite losing nearly 30,000 people to the virus, Bolsonaro has railed against the “tyranny” of lockdowns and called for the country’s soccer season to resume.

Globally 6,166,946 people have been infected with the virus and 3,72,035 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data. United Sates remains the country with maximum number of infections at 1,790,172, followed by Brazil at 514,849, and Russia at 405,843.

(With inputs from AFP)