Former Chancellor Ernesto Araújo mobilized Brazil’s diplomatic apparatus to ensure the country’s supply of chloroquine, even after the World Health Organization halted clinical trials with the drug and after medical associations put warns against ineffectiveness and the risk of side effects.
This is revealed by diplomatic telegrams obtained by Folha and information from those involved in the negotiations. The former minister, who resigned at the end of March, will be heard at the Covid CPI next Thursday (13), to explain whether there has been a loss in the purchases of supplies and vaccines due to the foreign policy of its administration.
Itamaraty’s run on chloroquine began shortly after President Jair Bolsonaro raised “a possible cure for the disease” on his social media on March 21.
“Albert Einstein Hospital and the Possible Cure of Covid-19 Patients. Professionals at Albert Einstein Hospital recently informed me that they had launched a research protocol to assess the effectiveness of chloroquine in patients with patients with Covid-19, “he wrote.
A day earlier, Prevent Senior and Albert Einstein Hospital announced that they had started studies with the drug. In a statement at a G-20 meeting on March 26, reported in a telegram, Bolsonaro highlighted “successful tests in Brazilian hospitals with the use of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of patients infected with Covid-19, with the possibility of cooperation on the Brazilian Experience ”.
On the same day, although there was no “successful test” in Brazilian hospitals, the Foreign Ministry requested, in a telegram, that diplomats attempt to “sensitize the Indian government to the emergency. to release the exports of goods ordered by companies before referring [EMS, Eurofarma, Biolab e Apsen] and others who are in the same state, whose shortages in Brazil would have very negative effects on the national health system ”. At the time, the Indian government restricted the export of chloroquine.
In another communication, on April 15, the ministry asked the Embassy in India to make arrangements with the Indian government to release a shipment of hydroxychloroquine purchased by the Apsen company before the export was opposed by Delhi and that the sale of the drug is stopped. . standardized.
Throughout April, there were numerous requests from the Foreign Ministry for chloroquine – championed by Bolsonaro as a “cure” for Covid-19.
One of the telegrams, for example, indicates that the Foreign Office has asked the Pan American Health Organization to contact the Indian government to secure the release of a batch of millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine.
In another, dated April 24, the ministry requested support for a Brazilian pharmaceutical company to import hydroxychloroquine sulfate and said it would usually supply “FURP [Fundação para o Remédio Popular], Fiocruz, LAQFA [Laboratório Químico-Farmacêutico da Aeronáutica] and Army Laboratory. In the communication, the ministry asks the embassy to make arrangements with the Indian government to release the cargo.
Even after the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases, the Brazilian Society of Pulmonology and Chemology, and the Brazilian Association of Critical Care Medicine advised against the use of chloroquine against Covid and reported serious side effects, on May 19, l ‘Itamaraty continued to activate diplomacy. body, by telegram from June, to guarantee the supply of hydroxychloroquine.
Itamaraty’s commitment to guarantee vaccines and drugs from China was much lower than that dedicated to chloroquine. Until November 2020, the ministry had not sent specific instructions to diplomats to prospect potential suppliers of vaccines or medicines in China, according to people involved in the negotiations.
China is the country that produces the most Covid vaccines and has been the target of constant attacks under Ernesto’s administration. The country has five vaccines approved by local health authorities, including that of giant Sinopharm – although Chinese products are less effective than those of Pfizer and Moderna, for example.
Among the Chinese, Brazil only uses Coronavac, from Sinovac, produced in partnership with the Butantan Institute, in an agreement reached by the governor of São Paulo, João Doria. More than 80% of the doses administered in Brazil come from Coronavac. According to those involved in the negotiation, there have been only vague requests for information on developments in the field of vaccines, but no active guidance to obtain vaccines, unlike what has been done with chloroquine.
It was not until this year that the Brazilian Embassy in China was called upon to make arrangements for the release of inputs for vaccine production from AstraZeneca.
A telegram from April 4, 2020 reports that President Bolsonaro allegedly said in a telephone conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Brazil has had “encouraging results” in the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with Covid-19.
However, no study in Brazil has been considered the gold standard (randomized, double-blind and with a control group) that has demonstrated the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine against the disease. Just two weeks after Bolsonaro’s phone call, Prevent Senior released a preliminary study, which was found to be flawed, incomplete and with evidence of fraud.
Albert Einstein was also leading a study with a group of hospitals on the use of hydroxychloroquine – the result, published at the end of July, highlights that the drug did not show a favorable effect on the clinical course of hospitalized adult patients. in mild or moderate forms. of Covid- 19.
In the appeal to the Indian prime minister, reported in the telegram, Bolsonaro called on Modi to release the cargoes of hydroxychloroquine acquired by Brazilian companies, claiming it was a “humanitarian appeal” and claiming that the chloroquine “could save many lives in Brazil”.
The report reached Itamaraty by email and phone to seek the position of the ministry and ex-minister Ernesto Araújo on the matter. Until the close of this edition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had not responded.