Arizona man dies of poisoning after taking Trump's 'gamechanger' coronavirus drug

Arizona man dies of poisoning after taking Trump's 'gamechanger' coronavirus drug
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PHOENIX, ARIZONA: An Arizona man has died and his wife has been hospitalized after they tried to self-medicate themselves against COVID-19 by ingesting a chemical touted by President Donald Trump.

The couple, both in their 60s, was said to be concerned about symptoms and saw information online that chloroquine phosphate could be used to fight the novel coronavirus, according to KTAR News.

The drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, and while it has shown the potential to fight the novel coronavirus, it is not proven and has not undergone sufficient testing for the same.

It was, however, still mentioned by Trump during a press conference last week and in a tweet where he insisted it was a "gamechanger."

"HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine," the POTUS wrote. "The FDA has moved mountains - Thank You! "

Chloroquine, as well as another similar drug, hydroxychloroquine, had shown encouraging signs in early tests, but without concrete evidence, scientists have refrained from touting it as both are known to have major side effects.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert who is also on Trump's coronavirus taskforce, urged caution with the drug and said Trump had heard about its effectiveness through just anecdotal reports. "I...have said I'm not disagreeing with the fact anecdotally they might work, but my job is to prove definitively from a scientific standpoint that they do work," he said.

In a different form, chloroquine phosphate is sold as an additive to deal with infections and algae in fish tanks, with Dr Daniel Brooks, the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, revealing the aquarium form and medical form have "the same structure."

Brooks revealed that the couple took the equivalent of "several days worth" of the compound as it would have been prescribed as medicine and started feeling sick within 30 minutes of ingesting it.

The man died shortly after arriving at an emergency room, while his wife was resuscitated and is currently being cared for at a Phoenix Banner hospital.

It's not just in the US. Health officials in Nigeria have issued a warning about chloroquine as well and said three people had overdosed on the drug in the country after Trump's endorsement.

Banner said taking such drugs was "absolutely wrong" and "potentially dangerous" and that the only patients who should take any kind of prescription medication for coronavirus are those who have tested positive for the virus and require treatment in an intensive care unit. 

"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," he added.

Dr Ross McKinney Jr., chief scientific officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents about 400 major teaching hospitals across the country, similarly said it might be tempting for doctors to use already-approved drugs off label, but that formal studies were needed to see if they worked on a new disease.

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