An American health care system is warning people against self-medicating for COVID-19 as one man in his 60s has died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate.
A statement by Banner Health, a large non-profit health care system in the U.S., says a man is dead and his wife, also in her 60s, is in critical care after they both took the additive, which is apparently commonly used to clean fish tanks.
“Within thirty minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital,” the statement says.
The health care system urges people to avoid taking chloroquine — a malaria medication —to treat or prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“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, the medical director for Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, in the statement.
Brooks said the last thing emergency departments need right now is an influx of people who have ingested a “vague and risky solution” that puts their lives in danger.
Banner Health says most people infected with the virus will only need to care for their symptoms and self-isolate. Brooks warned their system is “strongly urging the medical community to not prescribe this medication to any non-hospitalized patients.”
Chloroquine hit the headlines after U.S. President Donald Trump touted it last weekend as a possible treatment for virus victims, even decreeing it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
That turned out not to be true, but it did spark interest in the drug around the world and even caused Canada’s top doctor to warn against ingesting untested drugs for treating COVID-19.
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says chloroquine is just one of a “vast suite” of existing drugs being tested for use against the virus and that the medication should not be taken until those scientific tests are complete.
She says to do otherwise might not only be ineffective, it could also be dangerous, as all drugs come with side effects.
Canada is part of a massive global study started by the World Health Organization to look into the use of chloroquine and other potential treatments for COVID-19.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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