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Patients of a private health care provider in Brazil did not know they would be “guinea pigs” in a study of drugs including hydroxychloroquine with no proven efficacy against Covid-19, a parliamentary inquiry has learned.

The lawyer for a dozen whistleblowers, who worked for the medical group Prevent Senior, also told senators in Brasilia on Tuesday that doctors risk being sacked if they refuse to prescribe the combination of drugs to people with the disease. respiratory.

The charges came during hours of testimony at a congressional inquiry examining Brazil’s response to the coronavirus crisis, which has claimed nearly 600,000 lives in Latin America’s most populous country.

Lawmakers on the committee are now focusing on Prevent Senior, after receiving a dossier containing evidence of suspected wrongdoing in its experimental use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine with the antibiotic azithromycin in cases of Covid-19.

Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, has promoted the use of such drugs as a form of “early treatment” for respiratory disease, despite the lack of clinical evidence.

Complaints against Prevent Senior include manipulation of data, lack of transparency and cover up of deaths of patients who participated in the study, according to the Senate website. He added that there were nine deaths during the study, but the authors only mentioned two.

Prevent Senior has vigorously denied all of the allegations. “These are unfounded accusations, based on truncated or edited messages leaked to the press and which will be dismantled throughout the investigations,” he said.

Bruna Morato, the lawyer representing the 12 doctors who worked at the company, said on Tuesday that the alleged practices showed a “lack of respect for people’s lives.”

She claimed that the roll-out of the so-called ‘Covid kit’ of drugs within the healthcare group was aimed at avoiding hospitalization of patients and thus reducing costs.

Sao Paulo prosecutors have created a task force to investigate the allegations.

The parliamentary inquiry is expected to deliver a final report in the coming weeks that could include recommendations for criminal charges against Bolsonaro for his conduct during the public health crisis. The right winger denigrated the use of masks, opposed blockades and denounced the importance of vaccines.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement