CDC: Home remedy for COVID-19 can cause severe health consequences

Mar 28, 2020, 6:00 PM
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)...
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

PHOENIX — The Centers for Disease Control said on Saturday serious health consequences could occur if people use chloroquine phosphate without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider.

This comes after a metro Phoenix man died and his wife was hospitalized when they ingested the chemical as a home remedy for the coronavirus.

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

Along with being able to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, the drug is also sold as an additive to deal with infections and algae in fish tanks.

The drugs 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.

“At this time, there are no routinely available pharmaceutical products that are FDA-approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19,” read a health advisory on the CDC website.

While the medications are being studied as a potential treatment, the CDC says their efficacy to either prevent or treat COVID-19 is unknown.

Improper use of chloroquine phosphate could result in severe toxicity, including cardiac rhythm disturbances such as prolonged QT, severe hypokalemia, cardiovascular collapse, seizures, coma, and death, according to the CDC.

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.”

He says the information the Valley couple, both in their 60s, reportedly saw online suggesting aquarium products could be used to combat coronavirus as “absolutely wrong and unfortunately potentially dangerous.”

The CDC says the product in the possession of the couple was in powder form inside a 2.2-pound container and labeled “for Ornamental Fish Use Only”.

Brooks added that it appears the couple ingested the equivalent of several days worth of the compound as if it would have been prescribed as medicine and they felt sick within 30 minutes.

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, and 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.

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

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CDC: Home remedy for COVID-19 can cause severe health consequences