Health officials in Nigeria are reporting cases of chloroquine poisoning after President Donald Trump touted the anti-malarial drug as a treatment against the coronavirus.
As the South China Morning Post reported, officials in the capital city of Lagos said on Friday that hospitals have seen cases of poisoning caused by the drug, which Trump said during a press conference on Thursday had been “approved” to treat COVID-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That led to an immediate pushback from a top medical official administration, who said that the drug had not yet gained approval.
“The information that you’re referring to specifically is antecdotal,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to ABC News.
“It was not done in a controlled clinical trial. So you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”
Trump backed off the claim that the drug had been approved, but did continue to tout it as a potential cure to the virus. He took to Twitter on Saturday morning to promote hydrochloroquine and other anti-malarial drugs as “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” He noted that the FDA “moved mountains” to get the drug moving through the testing phase toward approval.
The South China Morning Post’s report noted that chloroquine has been used to treat some patients in China and France and has shown to be effective, but more testing is still needed to determine whether it would be safe to counteract the novel coronavirus.
Trump’s statements still had a big effect in Nigeria, the report noted.
“In the last few days, we’ve seen a lot of messages going around on social media about chloroquine being a cure for coronavirus and in some parts of Lagos, it was no longer available,” Ore Awokoya, senior special assistant to the Lagos state governor on health, told the South China Morning Post.
“But after Donald Trump’s statement it took another dimension, people were massively queuing in front of the pharmacies to buy chloroquine.”
Nigerian health officials said they expect to see more cases of chloroquine poisoning in the coming days as people continue to use it and advised that no one take medication without proper guidance.
Medical experts have said that it could take up to 18 months for a vaccine to be created for the novel coronavirus, and some have predicted that social distancing and self-isolation efforts may need to continue until that time.