A couple from Phoenix have overdosed on Chloroquine phosphate, which is a chemical used primarily for cleaning fish tanks. Both the couple were in their 60s. The husband has passed away while the wife is still in critical condition. This incident occurred after President Donald Trump publicly hyped the effects of an anti-malaria drug to treat coronavirus.
Within 30 minutes of taking the fish tank cleaner, both the husband and wife were seriously ill. The husband died after unsuccessful attempts of resuscitation on arrival at the hospital while the wife vomited most of the toxic chemical which may have saved her life.
As of now, it is uncertain if the couple ingested the chemical for treating COVID-19. However, this incident should caution everyone against self-medicating.
As no effective treatments have yet been discovered for COVID-19, a mass hysteria may be erupting forcing people to try experimental drugs.
“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.”
Last week, President Donald Trump had inaccurately stated that the FDA had approved Chloroquine, an anti-malaria medication for treatment of COVID-19. The FDA chief has contradicted this statement by stating that the drug has not yet been tested on COVID-19 patients.
After the statement from Trump, many news outlets and websites posted fatal false information with titles such as “Fish tank additive may treat coronavirus”. This headline could not be more wrong as the chloroquine phosphate used in fish tank cleaners has a different formulation from the anti-malarial medication and is not meant for human consumption.
Chloroquine, the anti-malaria drug requires a prescription which may be why the couple chose to ingest the fish tank cleaner instead. The name and the actual chemical may be similar but the dose definitely is not. Any chemical or drug can become toxic in higher doses. Anti-malarial drugs are developed after years of clinical trials on animals and humans.
Calculating the therapeutic dose is extremely important for all drugs as surpassing the therapeutic dose makes the drug toxic. Simply consuming a drug without known concentration or dosage more often than not tends to be fatal.
The solvent used to clean fish tanks may contain chloroquine, but it is not developed with a concentration even close to the therapeutic dose for humans. The method of formulation for the fish tank cleaner is remarkably different from the formulation used to develop the anti-malaria medication.
This unfortunate incident should come as a warning to all people against self-medicating. If you suspect that you may be infected or are showing symptoms of coronavirus infection, it is always best to visit your doctor and get an expert opinion. It could save your life.