A man has died and his wife is in critical condition after they consumed chloroquine phosphate as a preventive measure against the coronavirus. According to a statement on Monday from health care company Banner Health, the Arizona couple, both in their 60s, self-medicated with a type of chloroquine used to clean fish tanks. They were both admitted to the hospital after they "experienced immediate effects" within 30 minutes of ingesting the substance.
"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," Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said in the 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. We are strongly urging the medical community to not prescribe this medication to any non-hospitalized patients."
Speaking to NBC News, the man's wife said that she and he thought to take chloroquine phosphate after they watched President Donald Trump's daily press briefings, where he has touted chloroquine phosphate as a potential game changer in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
"I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, 'Hey, isn't that the stuff they're talking about on TV?'" the woman, who asked not to be named, recalled. "We were afraid of getting sick."
At this time, there are no FDA-approved drugs to treat, cure or prevent the coronavirus, though the FDA, which has already approved chloroquine as treatment for other conditions, 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, which is already approved for treating malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, 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 organization said in a Thursday press release. "Studies are underway to determine the efficacy in using chloroquine to treat COVID-19."
Meanwhile, medical professionals are urging people not to self-medicate and instead seek professional medical care.
As of Tuesday morning, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States had surpassed 46,000, with more than 590 fatalities.