Despite warnings issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) against using hydroxychloroquine as treatment for Covid-19, countries like Brazil, India, and Indonesia have joined US President Donald Trump in a push for the use of the malaria drug as a “game changer” in the all-out war against an invisible enemy.
According to the Washington Post, President Trump has repeatedly promoted the use of the antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, as an answer to the Covid-19 crisis that has wreaked havoc and taken thousands of lives all around the world. However, despite studies that have found otherwise and the WHO’s warnings against the potential side effects of the drug, he has continued to advance its cause and highlight its promise. President Trump has even boasted of feeling “absolutely great” after taking it as a preventive measure when he may have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus.
As for opposition to his advocacy for the drug, he said “There’s no reason to fight it,” which went against the recommendations issued by some health authorities who say that the drug had health risks making it likely in some cases to do more harm than good.
Adding fuel to the hydroxychloroquine controversy, India continued to back the drug even after WHO suspended clinical trials due to safety concerns. According to a report by Channel News Asia, despite studies that showed the drug may have significant safety risks, with one even finding that it can increase the risk of death, India, which produces 70 percent of the world’s hydroxychloroquine, still allows the administration of the drug to patients “with severe disease and requiring ICU management.”
Following the lead of the US, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has also advocated for the drug, saying it could aid in the recovery process for people infected with Covid-19. According to The Jakarta Post, in Indonesia, doctors have been told to use hydroxychloroquine as treatment for Covid-19 patients with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Given this, the nation has manufactured millions of doses, though the WHO has urged the country to discontinue using it as treatment.
Brazil also remains resolute in its stand behind the drug, as it did not change course even when WHO suspended trials. According to another report by Channel News Asia, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also advanced the cause for the drug as an answer to Covid-19. With Brazil being the worst hit Latin American country, it experienced a major shift in its Health Ministry as former Health Minister Nelson Teich allegedly resigned from his post after President Bolsonaro continued to back the drugs despite insufficient supporting evidence.
In more recent events, according to Yahoo News, the United States has exported two million hydroxychloroquine doses to Brazil in support of the country’s battle against the virus. Furthermore, a research collaboration between the two WHO outliers which will deal with “randomized controlled clinical trials” has been announced.
The WHO is still reviewing the evidence found against the drug such as one recently published study in the Lancet which found that hydroxychloroquine, “when used alone or with a macrolide,” may increase the risks of death and frequency of irregular heartbeats.