Arizona man dies after self-medicating with chloroquine to treat coronavirus

President Donald Trump continues touted chloroquine, a malaria drug he believes might help fight against coronavirus. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains why that and other drugs that might be effective against the virus need more evidence.

A Phoenix-area man is dead and his wife is under critical care after the two took chloroquine phosphate in an apparent attempt to self-medicate for the novel coronavirus, according to hospital system Banner Health.

Chloroquine has been touted by President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for Covid-19, but it’s also “an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks,” Banner Health said in a statement. Chloroquine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But the FDA has not approved it to treat the coronavirus.

Banner Health experts emphasized that the medication — as well as other “inappropriate medications and household products” — “should not be ingested to treat or prevent this virus.”

“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus,” Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said in the statement. “But self-medicating is not the way to do so.”

Banner Health, which is based in Arizona, didn’t give any details on how the couple, both in their 60s, acquired the chloroquine or which Banner hospital treated them.

However, according to the statement, “within thirty minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital.”

Trump has called chloroquine, and the closely-related hydroxychloroquine, potential game changers in the fight against Covid-19.

“HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,” he tweeted Saturday.

Some early research suggests the drug could be useful against the virus. However, Trump’s comments have prompted health officials to warn that further study is needed.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said the drugs may be effective against the novel coronavirus. However, he told CBS’ Margaret Brennan on Sunday that Trump had heard about the hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin combination’s effectiveness from anecdotal reports.

“I…have said I’m not disagreeing with the fact anecdotally they might work, but my job is to prove definitively from a scientific standpoint that they do work,” Fauci, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force, said.

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In Nigeria, health officials issued a warning about chloroquine, saying three people in the country have overdosed on the drug after Trump endorsed it as a potential treatment.

Banner Health said it is “strongly urging” health care providers not to prescribe chloroquine to patients who aren’t hospitalized.

“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,” Brooks said.

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