Chloroquine has become a cultural icon in Brazil

chloroquine cultural icon

There is no evidence that antimalarial drug chloroquine can help patients beat the coronavirus. Yet, President Jair Bolsonaro touts it as a “possible cure” for Covid-19 — and helped make the medicine became extremely popular in Brazil. Now, even street hawkers are selling it inside trains and public squares. In the Rio de Janeiro subway, a chloroquine tablet could be found for BRL 10 (less than USD 2).

As a comparison, drugstore prices for a box with 30 pills rose 50 percent since the coronavirus arrived in Brazil, according to the Brazilian Association of Lupus and Other Rheumatic Diseases. Mr. Bolsonaro’s favorite medicine is no longer easily found in drugstores — due to heated demand and higher prices — although Brazil’s Defense Ministry reported 1.8 million chloroquine tablets in stock at the Army Laboratory. 

That could serve as a reserve for 18 years, considering the country’s average demand.

Chloroquine trinkets

Besides using the antimalarial drug to beat a virus that still has no cure, people can also gift their relatives with some thematic items, such as a pillow with the same print as a medicine box — or even a mug with a satirical figure of President Bolsonaro. 

The drug will also be on electoral ballots, with joke candidates such as “Captain Chloroquine.” The moniker was adopted by lawyer Regina Célia Sequeira, who runs for city councilor in Rio de Janeiro. Despite being a Bolsonaro supporter, Ms. Sequeira would only take the drug as a “last resort.”

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