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Arizona man dies after ingesting substance touted by President Trump

PHOENIX – Hospital officials are warning against home remedies for COVID-19 after a metro Phoenix man died and his wife was hospitalized when they ingested a chemical touted by President Donald Trump as a possible coronavirus treatment.

During a press conference last week, and again Monday, Trump mentioned that chloroquine, a drug long used to prevent malaria, had shown the potential to combat COVID-19.

The substance, also known as chloroquine phosphate, hasn’t gone through rigorous scientific testing as a coronavirus treatment.

Chloroquine and a similar drug, hydroxychloroquine, showed encouraging signs in small, early tests against the coronavirus. But the drugs have major side effects, one reason scientists don’t want to give them without evidence of their value, even in this emergency.

In a different form, chloroquine phosphate is sold as an additive to deal with infections and algae in fish tanks.

Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM the aquarium form and medical form are “the same chemical structure.”

The Valley couple, both in their 60s, were concerned about symptoms and reportedly saw information online suggesting aquarium products could be used to combat coronavirus.

“Which is absolutely wrong and unfortunately potentially dangerous,” Brooks said.

He added that it appears the couple ingested the equivalent of several days worth of the compound as it would have been prescribed as medicine.

They felt sick within 30 minutes, Brooks said. The man died shortly after arriving at an emergency room. The woman was resuscitated and is being cared for at a Phoenix Banner hospital.

“Before taking the product they had not been tested,” Brooks said.

Brooks said the only patients who should take any kind of prescription medication for COVID-19 are those diagnosed with the illness and requiring treatment in an intensive care unit.

Experts say anybody experiencing COVID-19 symptoms — which include cough, fever and shortness of breath — who are concerned they are infected should reach out to a health care professional for guidance. Brooks said to stick with state and local health departments as sources of information about coronavirus.

Already approved drugs are tempting for doctors to use off label, but formal studies are needed to see if they truly work for a new purpose or disease, said Dr. Ross McKinney Jr., chief scientific officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents about 400 major teaching hospitals across the country.

Chloroquine may look promising in a test tube, but “I’m skeptical it will be effective” in patients, he said last week in a call with reporters.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Debra Dale and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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