Man dies after ingesting fish tank cleaner containing chloroquine for COVID-19

A man in Arizona is dead and his wife is in critical care after the couple ingested a non-medication form of chloroquine phosphate to stave off COVID-19, according to Phoenix-based Banner Health.

Chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, has been touted by President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for COVID-19. In an apparent attempt to self-medicate, the couple ingested an additive commonly used to clean fish tanks that has the same active ingredient as the anti-malaria drug.

"Within 30 minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital," the system said.

Banner Health officials emphasized that chloroquine and other "inappropriate medications and household products" should not be taken to prevent or treat COVID-19.  

"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, MD, Banner's Poison and Drug Information Center medical director said. "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."

Dr. Brooks strongly urged physicians not to prescribe chloroquine to any nonhospitalized patients.

Though chloroquine and the related hydroxychloroquine have been shown to disrupt some viruses, "there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus," according to the World Health Organization. "Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials."

There are now shortages of hydroxychloroquine, used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, because healthy people are stocking up on the drug. The Lupus Foundation of America told ProPublica it is working "to take steps that ensure people with lupus will be protected from a disruption in access to critical medications."

More articles on public health:

Chicago to rent out thousands of hotel rooms for COVID-19 patients
How Americans are responding to coronavirus pandemic: 5 survey findings
Italian physicians urge other nations to treat more patients at home

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