A man has died and his wife is in critical condition after they self-medicated with chloroquine, a malaria medication touted by Donald Trump as a “game changer” treatment in the fight against the coronavirus despite the objections of top White House officials.
Banner Health, an Arizona-based health care system, announced on Monday that the couple, both in their 60s, had ingested chloroquine phosphate. The couple began to feel side effects within 30 minutes and both were taken to a hospital, where the man died and his wife remains in critical condition.
The man’s death prompted the health system to speak out, warning people not to take the drug.
“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 Center 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 jeopardize their health.”
Trump had created a rift in the White House by touting the anti-malaria drug as a “game changer.” After Trump’s promising statements, the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases noted that the evidence of the drug working as a coronavirus treatment was anecdotal, warning against its use. Dr. Anthony Fauci contradicted Trump at a press conference last week, noting that there was not enough evidence to declare it an effective treatment.
“It was not done in a controlled clinical trial. So you really can’t make any definitive statement about it,” Dr. Fauci said, via ABC News.
There have been other reports of dangers from people self-medicating with the drug. In Nigeria, health officials have reported cases of chloroquine poisoning after Trump had touted it as a coronavirus treatment.
As the South China Morning Post reported, officials in the city of Lagos said that they took in patients suffering dangerous side effects of the anti-malarial drug after Trump wrongly claimed it had been “approved” to treat COVID-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Trump has been criticized for making several statements contradicting the nation’s top medical officials, including frequently downplaying the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in its early days and predicting that cases in the United States would quickly go down to zero. Since then the virus has spread across the nation, with close to 40,000 confirmed cases.