The United States has delivered two million doses of the antimalarial medicine hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to Brazil to fight COVID-19, the White House said Sunday, though 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 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 is an outspoken fan 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.
A paper published in The Lancet 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.
According to AFP, the study was not an RCT, and more than 100 clinicians and scientists have since questioned the authenticity of a hospital database it relied on to reach its conclusions. HCQ has been granted an emergency use authorization for COVID-19 in the US for patients under close heart monitoring.