CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) CoronaVirus Covid-19 CoronaVirus Treatment coronavirus vaccine
Published 10:15 PM EDT Mar 24, 2020
PHOENIX — A man has died and his wife was in critical care Monday after the couple ingested non-medication chloroquine phosphate in hopes of preventing the new coronavirus, Banner Health announced in a press release.
The couple, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate, which is an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks, the news release said. The chemical is also found in an anti-malaria medication that's been touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.
Within 30 minutes of ingestion, they experienced effects that required admittance to a Banner Health hospital, the hospital said.
Chloroquine has been in use since 1944 to fight malaria and has antiviral effects. Researchers believe it may interfere with the ability of the new virus to fuse to cell walls and infect them, but more research is needed. Currently, doctors have no established treatments for COVID-19 beyond supportive care that generally includes IV liquids, oxygen, fever reducers and pain killers.
Banner Health spokesperson Alexis Kramer-Ainza told The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network, on Tuesday that chloroquine and chloroquine phosphate have the same active ingredient but were formulated and created differently.
The couple did not ingest any prescribed medication or drug form of chloroquine phosphate, Kramer-Ainza told The Republic on Tuesday. They ingested the additive found in fish tank cleaners, she said.
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) CoronaVirus Covid-19 CoronaVirus Treatment coronavirus vaccine Couple is from Maricopa County, not believed to have had COVID-19
The hospital did not disclose the couple's identity. The Maricopa County couple had symptoms they were concerned represented COVID-19 but had not been tested and were not believed to have been infected, Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, told The Arizona Republic.
“We don't know how much they ingested but it was a couple of days' worth of normal dosing,” said Kramer-Ainza.
She said the couple ingested the chloroquine phosphate as a preventative measure for COVID-19.
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“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,” Brooks said in a statement included in the news release.
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The hospital warned people against the use of inappropriate medications and household products to prevent or treat COVID-19. Specifically, Banner Health said chloroquine, a malaria medication, should be not be ingested to treat or prevent the virus, the news release said.
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) CoronaVirus Covid-19 CoronaVirus Treatment coronavirus vaccine Banner Health poison centers getting calls about chloroquine
Brooks told The Republic that Banner Health's poison centers in Arizona were receiving an increased number of calls from people asking if they can use certain medications or household products for COVID-19. The exact number of calls was not readily available, he said.
Some of the inquires were related to chloroquine, likely because of “misinformation that they're obtaining from the interweb and television,” Brooks said.
“At this time, there's no great data that these medications are going to help a majority of patients” with COVID-19, he said.
Brooks explained that while hospitals, including Banner Health, were giving some of its hospitalized COVID-19 patients the prescription medication, the patients typically have moderate or severe symptoms and are monitored under “very strict and intensive conditions” to help decrease the risk of side effects associated with the drug.
While “potential antiviral medication including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine” may be beneficial to some COVID-19 patients, it has significant side effects and, therefore, should not be given to non-hospitalized patients, he said.
“We are strongly urging the medical community to not prescribe this medication to any non-hospitalized patients,” Brooks said in the press release.
Brooks said about eight or nine COVID-19 patients out of 10 can recover at home with help from over-the-counter medication to relieve headaches or fever along with their regular medications for other diagnoses if they have any.
“They shouldn't be trying to come up with a magic pill,” Brooks said. “This is another example where there's not going to be a magic pill for the coronavirus that comes off the internet. That's just not going to happen.”
The hospital urged people to check with their primary care physician should they experience symptoms related to COVID-19. Most people who are infected with the disease require symptomatic care and self-isolation, the news release said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow Chelsea Curtis on Twitter: @curtis_chels.