Spanish— With ten drops under the tongue every four hours of an antiviral drug called Carvativir, Nicolás Maduro promises to eradicate the coronavirus in Venezuela. With those indications “the miracle is done.” Understand the irony.
On national television and also on his Twitter account, he insisted that the product already has a health permit and even a patent to start “mass production” and distribution in the public health network because the product is “very powerful” and even harmless because it is a “totally harmless” substance.
El Carvativir, las gotitas milagrosas de José Gregorio Hernández, neutralizan los síntomas del Coronavirus. ¡De Venezuela para el mundo! A partir de esta semana comienza la producción masiva, para que todo el Sistema Público Nacional de Salud cuente con este poderoso antiviral. pic.twitter.com/lNcl3BxIJF
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) January 25, 2021
The social network Twitter, which has taken on a supervisory role of the information published by presidents, did not issue any warning in this case since it is a medical prescription that has not been verified by any recognized laboratory. However, Jack Dorsey’s platform objected to a tweet by the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, where he recommended last week the “early treatment for COVID with antimalarials” as an alternative to “reduce the progression of the disease.”
Twitter was quick to question the Brazilian president’s words, adding a warning similar to the one included in former President Donald Trump’s messages when the campaign to silence him was launched, evidencing once again, the double standard when it comes to filtering content. “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19. However, Twitter determined that it may be in the public interest for that Tweet to remain accessible.”
– Estudos clínicos demonstram que o tratamento precoce da Covid, com antimaláricos, podem reduzir a progressão da doença, prevenir a hospitalização e estão associados à redução da mortalidade. @alexandregarcia https://t.co/k3efrlNIPQ pic.twitter.com/URPVnsHMIt
— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) January 15, 2021
In Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro says that the finding is due to his eagerness to “renew everything” and the “observation” of the results obtained from the tests of the drug in “massive experiments” in patients with different degrees of complexity of the disease without causing “any side or negative effects.”
He will share the formula with his “soul brothers,” Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Haiti until it is marketed in other countries with which he has a “strategic relationship,” although he did not mention any of them.
And it will send to the World Health Organization (WHO) the studies so that the organization “knows and certifies” Carvativir.
A molecule without any backing
Three months ago, Maduro had already announced that the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC) had found a molecule called DR-10 from a medicinal plant —without mentioning which one— which completely eliminated the coronavirus.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Gabriela Jiménez, followed his speech. She explained that the studies were six months old and that the biological activity of cells affected by COVID-19 subjected to different concentrations of the identified active principle had been evaluated.
“It is a derivative of ursolic acid, and this molecule presents 100 % inhibition of virus replication in vitro”, the official said according to NoticiasNet. Maduro also gave credit for facilitating the discovery to Rafael Lacava, an “eccentric and controversial” governor, who is nicknamed “Dracula,” notes La Vanguardia.
DR-10 Lista para iniciar el recorrido hacia la Organización Mundial de la Salud OMS y así ser certificada para salvar vidas a nivel mundial. Gracias presidente @nicolasmaduro por hacer de este hallazgo venezolano una posibilidad para la humanidad entera. Aquí nadie se rinde ?? pic.twitter.com/9r6jRQrjdV
— Rafael Lacava (@rafaellacava10) November 19, 2020
But what is known about this molecule? Infoabe points out that “the active ingredient is a derivative of ursolic acid from a plant that is non-toxic to humans. It can be isolated from the leaves of various plants (rosemary, marjoram, lavender, thyme, and organum), fruits (apple peel), flowers, and berries.”
A component with a poor reputation
José Esparza, Venezuelan virologist, and professor at the Institute of Human Virology of the School of Medicine of the University of Maryland (United States) told Efecto Cocuyo that the scope of the DR-10 molecule is unknown. It only transpires that it is derived from plants with a reputation of being medicinal, both as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory.”
But the announcement of the DR-10 molecule generated an “alarm” among some scientific communities, which warned that there is no independent National Bioethics Committee registered, according to the publication.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regime has not contacted the National Center for Bioethics (Cenabi). Although it is established in the Official Gazette that any research related to COVID-19 must be approved by the Ethics Committee for research of the corresponding institution, Cenabi warns that the studies are being endorsed only by the Ministries of Health and Science and Technology themselves.
The reality of science
Behind Maduro’s announcement lies the reality of scientific centers that are struggling with shortages, lack of access to foreign currency for the purchase of supplies and repair of equipment, and the migration of qualified personnel and trainees.
Since 2003, Venezuela has lost 1954 researchers, according to the Academy of Physical, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (Acfiman), quoted by the Science and Development Network for Latin America (SicDev.Net). For its part, the Central University of Venezuela reports 27, 5 defections in the Faculty of Sciences in 2017.
“The talent drain is dramatic because younger people are leaving. Cases of young people presenting master’s theses and leaving are frequent, but now undergraduate students are also leaving,” the organization states.
In the two decades of Chavismo, the average age of an active researcher in Venezuela rose from 40 to over 50 in 2015, as a reflection of “aging at an alarming rate” among scientists.
And this occurs amid a “decline in resources for research.” Much of the funding comes from revenue obtained through the Organic Law of Science, Technology, and Innovation, which registered a steep drop in revenue between 2014 and 2015, that according to figures published by SicDevNet, fell 44%.
Productivity in decline
The drop in scientific productivity is another consequence evidenced in the socialist country, where the number of projects financed by the National Fund for Science and Technology dropped from 974 in 2012 to only 62 in 2015.
The 2017 convention of the Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science received only 160 scientific papers. In 2006, the number of papers hovered around 2000.
The Marcel Roche library declared, of regional reference by Unesco for being the largest bibliographic source of science and technology in Venezuela, is outdated due to the impossibility of renewing subscriptions and acquiring new publications. “It is very painful what is happening because the continuity of a work that took decades is being lost,” discloses the scientific analysis organization.