The man's wife said that they considered self-medicating after President Trump touted chloroquine as potential game-changer in the treatment of Covid-19.
Editor's note: the headline has been updated from its original version to clarify the contents of the story.
An Arizona man has died after self-medicating with a deadly home remedy for the novel coronavirus believing it would protect him from the risk of infection. The man's wife also took the substance with him on Sunday and was under critical care. The duo ingested a version of chloroquine phosphate meant to clean fish tanks instead of the medication that's used to treat malaria in humans. Speaking to NBC News, the woman said that she and her husband got the idea to self-medicate after watching President Trump's news conference on Thursday during which he touted chloroquine and the closely-related hydroxychloroquine as potential game-changers in the treatment of Covid-19.
Pres. Trump touts chloroquine, an old malaria drug, that doctors say may help treat novel coronavirus, claims it will be available "almost immediately."— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 19, 2020
Read more about chloroquine: https://t.co/r20TMjfgaQ pic.twitter.com/3OSBmjCC8e
The woman revealed that while watching televised briefings of the conference, the name "chloroquine" had resonated with her as she'd previously used it to treat her koi fish. "I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, 'Hey, isn't that the stuff they're talking about on TV?'" she said. The couple—both in their 60s—then decided to mix a small amount of the substance with a liquid and ingest it in an attempt to prevent the coronavirus. "We were afraid of getting sick," she admitted.
Arizona man dies after ingesting chloroquine in an attempt to prevent coronavirus. https://t.co/BG4xyZnKFv— NBC News (@NBCNews) March 23, 2020
There are no drugs approved to try to prevent or treat the new coronavirus. Self-medicating to prevent the coronavirus can be dangerous and possibly deadly.
However, the couple became extremely ill within 20 minutes, feeling "dizzy and hot" at first. "I started vomiting," the woman revealed. "My husband started developing respiratory problems and wanted to hold my hand." Although she somehow managed to call 911, she couldn't answer the questions of emergency responders about what they'd consumed. "I was having a hard time talking, falling down," she said. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, the woman's husband passed away from cardiac arrest. According to The New York Times, hospital officials said on Monday that the woman had been upgraded to stable condition and was expected to make a full recovery.
Woman in ICU: "Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure."— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) March 24, 2020
NBC: "What would be your message to the American public?"
Woman: "Oh my God. Don't take anything. Don't believe anything. Don’t believe anything that the President says & his people...call your doctor." https://t.co/C8EiTQQ3r1 pic.twitter.com/UAOXBNsS4t
In a statement issued by Banner Health—a hospital system based in Phoenix—Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said: "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. 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." This incident comes just days after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control urged its people not to engage in self-medication with chloroquine after at least two such poisonings were reported in the country.
#FactsNotFear@WHO has NOT approved the use of chloroquine for #COVID19 management. Scientists are working hard to confirm the safety of several drugs for this disease.— NCDC (@NCDCgov) March 20, 2020
Please DO NOT engage in self-medication. This will cause harm and can lead to death.#COVID19Nigeria pic.twitter.com/K6kljq0VtW
According to CNN, although chloroquine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, the agency hasn't approved it to treat the novel coronavirus. However, Trump has repeatedly said that the drug could be instrumental in the fight against the pandemic. During the White House briefing on Thursday, the President claimed that the antiviral drug Remsdesivir and chloroquine have essentially "been approved for prescribed use."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, set the record straight the very next day when asked if the drug was promising, reports ABC News. "The answer is no. The evidence you are talking about is anecdotal evidence... We're trying to strike a balance between making something with a potential of an effect to the American people available, at the same time that we do it under the auspices of a protocol that would give us information to determine if it's truly safe and truly effective," he said. "But the information that you're referring to specifically is anecdotal — it was not done in a controlled clinical trial. So you really can't make any definitive statement about it."