Doctors are warning people not to self-treat for the coronavirus by misusing prescriptions or household products, following the death of one man.
On Monday, Banner Health hospitals announced that a couple in Arizona, both in their 60s, consumed chloroquine phosphate likely to prevent or treat coronavirus, or COVID-19, landing them both in the hospital under an hour after taking the medication. The man died and the woman is under critical care.
A drug used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, chloroquine phosphate has been lauded by President Donald Trump in press conferences and on Twitter, where, on Saturday, he wrote, “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”
The woman told NBC News that she’d watched the briefings where Trump brought up the drug.
The doctors at Banner Health, where the couple was treated, urged that chloroquine phosphate — which they note is sometimes used to clean fish tanks in aquariums — should not be misused.
The couple did not ingest the medication form of chloroquine phosphate. According to NBC News, chloroquine phosphate was listed as an ingredient on a parasite treatment for fish, which the woman said she had to treat her koi fish.
“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, in a press release. “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.”
Added Brooks: “We are strongly urging the medical community to not prescribe this medication to any non-hospitalized patients.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved chloroquine phosphate as treatment for other conditions and is currently testing whether it should be used for COVID-19.
“The FDA has been working closely with other government agencies and academic centers that are investigating the use of the drug chloroquine … to determine whether it can be used to treat patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 to potentially reduce the duration of symptoms, as well as viral shedding, which can help prevent the spread of disease,” the FDA said on Thursday in a press release, noting that studies are underway.
There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to treat, cure or prevent the coronavirus.
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