Amid the pandemic of COVID-19 for which there is currently no treatment, doctors have urged the public not to self medicate after an Arizona man died and his wife was put in critical care. The pair, both in their 60s, took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks.
A different formulation of the compound is also used in antimalarial medication, which has hit headlines recently as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Scientists in Australia are among those planning to test the drug on COVID-19 patients in a clinical trial, while researchers in France published promising results from a preliminary trial on the closely related medication hydroxychloroquine.
In a press conference last week President Donald Trump said the common malaria drug had “shown very very encouraging early results” in COVID-19 patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Stephen Hahn said the body would “take a closer look” at the drug in clinical trials “to actually gather that information and answer that question that needs to be asked and answered.” The FDA states on its website it has not approved any drugs specifically for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
According to a statement by nonprofit health care system Banner Health in Phoenix where the husband and wife were treated, 30 minutes after taking the substance “the couple experienced immediate effects” and were hospitalized.
The man’s wife, who did not want to be named, told NBC News that when she heard Trump mention chloroquine as a potential COVID-19 drug, she recognised the name as a parasite treatment for her koi fish.
“I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?'” she said, adding: “We were afraid of getting sick.”
Around 20 minutes after taking the drug the couple felt “dizzy and hot,” and she started vomiting.