A Phoenix-area man has died and his wife was in critical condition after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks that is also found in an anti-malaria medication that's been touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.
Banner Health said Monday that the couple in their 60s got sick within half an hour of ingesting the additive. The man couldn't be resuscitated when he arrived at a hospital, but the woman was able to throw up much of the chemical, Banner said.
“Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” the woman told NBC. She said her advice for people would be, “Don't take anything. Don't believe anything. Don't believe anything that the president says and his people ... call your doctor.”
It's unclear if the couple took it specifically because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but now Banner Health is warning everyone to avoid self-medicating.
“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, Banner Poison and Drug Information Centre medical director.
“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 jeopardise their health.”
At a news conference last week, Trump falsely stated that the Food and Drug Administration had just approved the use of an anti-malaria medication called chloroquine to treat patients infected with coronavirus. Even after the FDA chief clarified that the drug still needs to be tested for that use, Trump overstated the drug's potential upside in containing the virus.
Chloroquine is obtained by prescription, and Banner Health is now urging medical providers against prescribing it to people who aren't hospitalised. The difference between the fish tank cleaning additive that the couple took and the drug used to treat malaria is the way they are formulated.
The man's death came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona spiked more than 50 per cent in one day, from 152 on Sunday to 235 on Monday, according to the state Health Department.