Amid the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, Brazil lost its second health minister on May 15 after President Jair Bolsonaro demanded wider use of unproved anti-malarial drugs to fight the outbreak. While Nelson Teich, who was barely a month into the job, resigned, Brazilians reportedly banged pots from windows and health experts reacted with outrage. Meanwhile, the confirmed cases in the country have been increasing rapidly and the number has climbed past German and France.
According to an international media outlet, Bolsonaro had demanded on Thursday that Teich issue federal guidelines for the early use of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients, despite studies that cast doubt on the effectiveness of the malaria drug for COVID-19 and raised concerns it may cause heart problems.
However, Teich had frequently called the use of the drug ‘an uncertainty’ and this week he also warned of its side effects. Meanwhile, Bolsonaro reportedly said that he was elected to make decisions and the decision about chloroquine goes through him, further adding that his call to end state orders on social distancing should also be the last word.
Dr Nelson Teich is an oncologist and health care consultant who took over as the Health minister on April 17. Teich’s predecessor, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, had also rejected the use of chloroquine, which also had been promoted by US President Donald Trump as a mode of treatment. While both the ex-health minister reacted the use of the drug, Bolsonaro on Thursday informed his business leaders in a video conference that he would ease rules for use of chloroquine to treat people infected with the Coronavirus.
Brazil has so far more than 220,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and the deadly virus has even claimed nearly 14,962 lives in the country. According to some experts, the figure is significantly higher due to insufficient testing. The experts further said the peak of the crisis has yet to hit Latin America’s largest nation. The country’s Army Chemical and Pharmaceutical Laboratory boosted chloroquine production in late March at Bolsonaro’s continuous urging.
Researchers last month reported no benefit in a large analysis of the drug or a related substance, hydroxychloroquine, in U.S. hospitals for veterans. Meanwhile, scientists in Brazil stopped part of a study of chloroquine after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.