President Jair Bolsonaro’s favorite weapon against Covid-19, antimalarial drug chloroquine has proven costly for the federal government. In May alone, the Brazilian Army spent BRL 652,000 (USD 119,000) on 500 kilograms of the chloroquine diphosphate salt, the powder used to produce the medicine. The amount paid per kilogram, however, is six times higher than what was paid a year ago, according to newspaper Folha de S.Paulo.
The company responsible for distributing the powder in Brazil, Minas Gerais-based Sulminas Suplementos e Nutrição Ltda., indicated that the increase in the price is due to a rise in global demand for the drug, as well as to the devaluation of the Brazilian Real against the U.S. Dollar.
On Friday, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the former health minister dismissed because of his public clashes with Mr. Bolsonaro, told Correio Braziliense that the president defends the use of chloroquine because it is “cheap and produced in Brazil.” Not that cheap, apparently.
The drug is also said to be the reason for the resignation of Nelson Teich, Mr. Mandetta’s replacement who stepped down as health minister this week after less than a month in office.
Because the drug is being used to fight Covid-19, the army was authorized to buy the product without an official contract. Out of the 100 kilograms already delivered, the armed forces said they have produced 1.75 million pills to treat at least 5,000. The efficacy of the drug, however, is not confirmed. In fact, studies have indicated high dosages of the drug might increase the chance of Covid-19 deaths.