HomeNewsBriefBrazil Smuggles In Hydroxychloroquine Amid Coronavirus Despair
BRIEF

Brazil Smuggles In Hydroxychloroquine Amid Coronavirus Despair

BRAZIL / 4 JUN 2020 BY ZACHARY GOODWIN EN

Smugglers in Brazil wasted no time in moving an anti-malarial drug touted by President Jair Bolsonaro as a potential treatment for the coronavirus, bringing more than 3,000 doses illegally into the country days after health authorities approved its use.

On May 27, police in Brazil seized 120 boxes of hydroxychloroquine and arrested four people on charges of smuggling the medicine from neighboring Paraguay, Última Hora reported. When police discovered the contraband in a truck in the Brazilian state of Goiás, officers were told that its destination was a field hospital in the far-northern state of Maranhão. The 3,600 doses of hydroxychloroquine were identified as Paraguayan in origin, and the truck had left from Campo Grande near the Paraguay border, police said.

Just a week before the seizure of the anti-malarial drug, Bolsonaro and the country’s Ministry of Health passed new guidelines approving its use in the treatment of coronavirus. The country has been ravaged in recent weeks by the coronavirus, with more than 560,000 cases and 31,000 deaths as of June 3.

SEE ALSO: Brazil News and Profile

Though Bolsonaro admitted that there is no consensus about the drug’s efficacy and potential side effects, which have been scrutinized, he is one of a handful of world leaders still touting hydroxychloroquine as a therapy for the coronavirus. In response, Brazilian pharmaceutical companies have increased their production of hydroxychloroquine, and the country has also received imports of the drug from elsewhere, including the United States.

US President Donald Trump and El Salvador President Nayib Bukele have also encouraged the use of hydroxychloroquine, both claiming to have taken it themselves.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against the premature sanctioning of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, with no study to date supporting that it has any effect on the virus. The drug is also known to have potentially harmful cardiological side effects.

On June 3, the country registered 1,349 deaths from coronavirus, the highest single-day tally so far, for a total of 32,548 dead.

InSight Crime Analysis

The speed with which contraband hydroxychloroquine appeared in Brazil is a dangerous sign of how smugglers will quickly take advantage of nations desperate for a coronavirus treatment.

After President Trump touted the drug, worldwide demand for it spiked. Patients who used the drug to treat lupus, malaria and rheumatoid arthritis soon found it in short supply, putting their health in danger.

On May 31, the United States shipped 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to Brazil. As these types of government actions introduce hydroxychloroquine into medical supply chains, theft and resale of the drug on criminal markets will surely follow.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Coronavirus and Organized Crime

Countries such as México and Colombia already hosted thriving black markets for medicine prior to the pandemic. For years, systemic health care inequalities, lax regulations, corruption and high costs for legal medicines have made contraband drugs more accessible for those who need them. The pandemic has only exacerbated this situation.

In a March press release, Interpol reported a global rise in seizures of contraband medicine, including a 100 percent increase in chloroquine, the key component of hydroxychloroquine, and an 18 percent increase in seizures of antivirals. Authorities said both could be attributed to the coronavirus outbreak.

The pilfering of medical supplies – such as face masks, diagnostic tests, and even antibacterial gel – has already surged across Latin America. Seizures of contraband medicine have increased as well.

Other coronavirus treatments, most of them fraudulent if not dangerous, have made their way into Latin America's black market medicine trade.

In Perú, authorities seized 20,000 flasks of the anti-parasite drug ivermectin, which has been promoted as a coronavirus treatment despite studies casting doubt on its effectiveness. The flasks, intended for resale at local pharmacies, were in fact filled with veterinary ivermectin -- a version of the drug not fit for human consumption.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 22 NOV 2021

For the last few weeks, the twists and turns in the case of the Pharaoh of Bitcoins have constantly made…

BRAZIL / 29 JUL 2021

A number of arrests made to tackle a sophisticated cattle rustling operation in Brazil have suggested authorities are stepping up…

BRAZIL / 14 DEC 2020

It was a Tuesday night, January 14, 2020, after “free time” when prison authorities found his body.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

‘Ndrangheta Investigation, Exclusive Interview With Suriname President Make Waves

2 DEC 2022

Two weeks ago, InSight Crime published an investigation into how Italian mafia clan the ‘Ndrangheta built a cocaine trafficking network from South America to ‘Ndrangheta-controlled Italian ports. The investigation generated…

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…