A health worker treats patients with Covid-19, at the Pedro Dell Antonia Municipal Campaign Hospital, on April 15, 2021 in the city of Santo André, in the state of Sao Paulo (Brazil). EFE / Sebastiao Moreira

Irene Castilho didn’t even have a day to cry after her husband died of COVID-19. She was sick too, coughing and struggling to breathe; he had just passed away when she began using the same oxygen mask. That same day, March 22, she was admitted to a hospital in Sao Paulo.

The 71-year-old had followed the doctors’ instructions to the letter, dutifully taking her doses of hydroxychloroquine.. He also took ivermectin and a battery of anti-inflammatories and vitamins from the so-called “COVID kit” that his health care company, Prevent Senior, mailed to his home.

Even so, his health was deteriorating.

At the hospital, Castilho received dialysis and was intubated. When doctors asked their daughters about the administration of flutamide, a drug typically used for prostate cancer, they declined, concerned about possible side effects for their mother, a liver cancer survivor.

They later saw a nurse administer flutamide to their mother; He told them that it had been prescribed for him despite their objection.

Castilho died in late April, 33 days after her husband and daughters scattered her ashes over his grave.

The case of Castilho is one of a series of examples that have resulted in to explosive accusations against Prevent Senior, which operates 10 hospitals in Sao Paulo, and they have scandalized Brazil since mid-September.

Medical personnel work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Hospital de Clínicas, in Porto Alegre (Brazil).  Stock Photography.  EFE / Marcelo Oliveira
Medical personnel work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Hospital de Clínicas, in Porto Alegre (Brazil). Stock Photography. EFE / Marcelo Oliveira

Complainant physicians, through their attorney, testified in the Senate last week that Prevent Senior recruited participants to supply untested medications without proper consent and forced physicians to prescribe untested medications touted by President Jair Bolsonaro as part of a “COVID kit.”

Some senators have said it appears that Prevent Senior falsified death certificates to omit COVID-19 as the cause of death.. Authorities are also investigating complaints that the company conducted the investigation without permission.

The case underscores the sharp division in Brazil over the proper treatment of COVID-19 patients, and many in the nation, including the president – who is not vaccinated – oppose global scientific recommendations. And there is concern that other vendors have also implemented unreliable policies.

Two weeks ago, Pedro Batista Júnior, the executive director of Prevent Senior, declared before senators that doctors have the right to treat COVID-19 patients as they see fit, and that patients had freely agreed to take the COVID kits.

In response to questions sent by The Associated Press, Prevent Senior denied any wrongdoing, stating that all patients and their families used its products after giving full consent.

Demonstrators protest against the handling of the pandemic by the Government of President Jair Bolsonaro and in tribute to the 600 thousand deaths from covid-19 that the South American country registers, today, in the Plaza de los Tres Poderes in Brasilia (Brazil).  EFE / Joédson Alves
Demonstrators protest against the handling of the pandemic by the Government of President Jair Bolsonaro and in tribute to the 600 thousand deaths from covid-19 that the South American country registers, today, in the Plaza de los Tres Poderes in Brasilia (Brazil). EFE / Joédson Alves

Medical care in the Brazilian health system is often deficient. Many middle-class patients purchase private health insurance, but the costs can be high, especially for the elderly.

Prevent Senior seemed to be a solution. It was founded in 1997 and became popular with those who could not afford exclusive medical services.. It costs about $ 300 a month, half of its competition. It has more than 500,000 clients, whose average age is 68 years.

Hydroxychloroquine has been promoted by President Bolsonaro and his associates. Although some studies at the beginning of the pandemic considered it promising, they were studies that did not leave the laboratory. Since then, more extensive tests have shown that such treatment is not only ineffective against COVID-19 but also potentially harmful.

Doctors also say they were recommended to use ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug whose effectiveness against COVID-19 has not been proven. The American Medical Association advises against its use outside of laboratories.

Pressures to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin are evident in internal messages from Prevent Senior obtained by the AP and previously delivered to the senatorial commission investigating the Brazilian government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Among those messages are some from Benedito Júnior, another executive, two clinic directors and an unidentified doctor.

Bruna Morato, attorney representing 12 physicians employed by Prevent Senior, He told the Senate commission on September 12 that doctors were told that if they did not prescribe these drugs, they would lose their jobs.

(With AP information)

Keep reading:

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COVID-19 in Brazil: suspected of pushing for ineffective remedies, they will continue to investigate Bolsonaro
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