A Brazilian hospital chain is under investigation after being accused of using untested drugs in elderly patients with COVID-19 without their consent, as reported by the director of the National Agency for the Regulation of Private Health Plans (ANS), Paulo Rebello Filho. According to the accusations, the hospitals promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine, in part, to help members of the Jair Bolsonaro government who allegedly wanted to use that information to convince Brazilians that there was no need for a lockdown.
The beginning of the end for Jair Bolsonaro?
Faced with a Senate investigation on Wednesday, Rebello has said that his staff has detected “assistance anomalies” in the Prevent Senior chain and that it will be subjected to special technical supervision, Reuters reports. It is the first case in which a regulatory body undertakes to investigate the irregularities committed by Prevent Senior, one of the main hospital chains that serves tens of thousands of patients in the Sao Paulo area.
The irregularities came to light last month, when a group of whistleblowers handed over to investigators a file of 10,000 pages It contained claims that the elderly patients had been used as “human guinea pigs” to test unproven “remedies” against COVID-19 without giving their full consent. According to The Guardian, they would have also hidden deaths from COVID-19 so as not to compromise the results of the Prevent Senior tests, whose supposed objective was to present the “COVID kit” (which included hydroxychloroquine, erythromycin and ivermectin) as effective against the disease.
Last Tuesday during the Senate investigation, Bruna Morato, a lawyer representing 12 doctors employed at Prevent Senior who have denounced these practices, said the company threatened and fired doctors who disagreed with a predetermined “COVID kit.” which included hydroxychloroquine, erythromycin, and ivermectin.
“Very vulnerable elderly patients were told that there was good treatment, but they did not know they were being used as guinea pigs,” Morato told senators investigating the management of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil. He also assured that the doctors did not explain the treatment to the patients or their families. According to Morato’s testimony, at least nine people died of COVID-19 during trials at Prevent Senior between March and April 2020, but their records were altered to hide the cause of death.
“The purpose was to show that there was an effective treatment against COVID-19,” Morato said, adding that the hospital had an agreement to help the Bolsonaro government, which was promoting unproven drugs as an effective treatment against the virus that would protect Brazilians from contagion if they returned to work.
Rebello has said that the ANS has opened an administrative process to investigate the irregularities at Prevent Senior and has sent officials to verify “indications of operational failures.” The objective, he pointed out, is to guarantee the maintenance of the quality of care, not to withdraw the chain of hospitals from the market. He has also claimed to ignore the accusations until they were presented in the Senate investigation.
Prevent Senior has said the allegations are unfounded. Pedro Batista, owner and executive director of the hospital chain, has denied in his testimony before the Senate the use of untested drugs in patients without their knowledge. Batista has acknowledged that the patients’ records were altered to eliminate any reference to COVID-19 after being hospitalized for two weeks, saying that they no longer constituted a risk of contagion.
In a statement, Prevent Senior said that it had not been officially notified of the ANS decision and that the chain had provided the regulator with documents showing that it acted within ethical and regulatory standards.
The instructor of the Brazilian Senate commission that investigates the Government’s management of COVID-19, Renán Calheiros, affirmed this Tuesday that President Jair Bolsonaro will have to answer for multiple crimes against public health.
“With certainty, President Bolsonaro will be imputed for all the crimes he committed,” Calheiros declared shortly before one of the last hearings of the commission, which since April has been investigating the possible omissions that the Government may have incurred in the face of the pandemic. , which has already killed almost 600,000 Brazilians.
The parliamentary commission was formed in April and has since uncovered indications of numerous irregularities, ranging from the government’s bet on ineffective remedies against COVID-19, to possible corruption issues in the negotiation of coronavirus vaccines.
According to Calheiros, some 30 people must be charged for various crimes, whose names he has not specified although he has advanced that the list will be headed by Bolsonaro himself.