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Chloroquine had been touted by both President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as effective against COVID-19. Photo: The Rio Times.
Chloroquine had been touted by both President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as effective against COVID-19. Photo: The Rio Times.

Brazil halts study on rumored COVID-19 drug once encouraged by President Trump after grave outcomes

Eleven of 81 participants died after receiving chloroquine to see its effects on coronavirus.

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Let the fate of a small study done in Manaus, Brazil be a lesson to leaders around the world on what happens when they try to provide expert advice on something in which they are not an expert.

In the large Amazon metropolis, doctors selected 81 patients to participate in a study analyzing the effects of chloroquine on the novel coronavirus.

If “chloroquine” sounds familiar, it’s the same malaria-treating and prevention drug U.S. president Donald Trump has both touted from the podium at his daily COVID-19 press conferences and tweeted about as a potential drug used to fight the novel coronavirus.

Immediately after he made the statements in a press conference, U.S. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci called the evidence cited by Trump as “anecdotal” at best.

In other words, there was no hard data to back if hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine actually worked against COVID-19.

Fauci’s words were too late for an Arizona husband and wife, who both self-medicated with the drug as a preventative measure against coronavirus. Both were taken to the hospital after ingesting the drug and the husband died of cardiac arrest.

The same thing happened to 11 of the participants in the Manaus study. Like Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro spoke of chloroquine as a “possible cure” for COVID-19.

Of the study’s 81 participants, 41 were given high doses of chloroquine. 

After three days, those that got the highest doses started experiencing heart arrhythmias, or irregular heart beats.

Three days after the initial irregularities, 11 of the participants died.

Patients in the study were also given an antibiotic known as azithromycin, which also presents similar cardiac risks to chloroquine.

Still, the touting of unproven information has only compounded the death already caused by COVID-19 and is only another sense of false hope when looking to the future.

A long road to a vaccine

In the race for an actual vaccine to COVID-19, three have made progress of late. Two are in the U.S. and one is in China, but they still have a long road before being confirmed and widely distributed.

Fauci said the necessary large studies on the potential vaccines could get done quicker than he previously thought (12 to 18 months) with the virus becoming more widespread.

“Please let me say this caveat: That is assuming that it’s effective. See, that’s the big ‘if.’ It’s got to be effective and it’s got to be safe,” he said.

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