Arizona Man Dies After Taking Drug Trump Promoted As Possible Coronavirus Cure

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By Jessica Swarner

March 23, 2020

An Arizona woman says she and her husband thought it was safe to take chloroquine phosphate as a coronavirus treatment because of statements the president has made.

A man has died and his wife was in critical condition after the couple ingested a formulation of chloroquine phosphate, a malaria drug that has been rumored to treat the deadly coronavirus, that is used for cleaning.

Banner Health, an Arizona-based health care provider, announced the death Monday afternoon. A spokeswoman later said the woman was in stable condition and expected to recover.

According to a hospital spokeswoman, the couple, both in their 60s, took the drug as a “preventative measure” to reduce their chances of contracting COVID-19. 

The woman told NBC she had heard President Donald Trump talk on TV about chloroquine as “pretty much a cure” for coronavirus. “I was in the pantry stacking dog food and I just saw it sitting in the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?’ And it was,” she said.

However, a Banner spokeswoman said chloroquine phosphate can be formulated in different ways – as a human medication, but also as an aquarium cleaner. What the couple had was the cleaner, not meant for humans.

The woman said she and her husband mixed a teaspoon of the substance with soda and drank it.

The couple experienced effects that required them to be hospitalized within 30 minutes of ingesting the drug.

“Don’t believe anything that the president says and his people because they don’t know what they’re talking about,” the woman told NBC. “And don’t take anything – be so careful and call your doctor. This is a heartache I’ll never get over.”

Trump said at a White House briefing last week that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved chloroquine phosphate – the formulation meant for humans – as a treatment for COVID-19, but the agency issued a statement saying it is still studying the drug’s effectiveness and it has not been approved to be used against coronavirus.

Banner officials warned people not to take “inappropriate medications or household products” in an effort to prevent or treat coronavirus. 

“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,” Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director, said in a press release. “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.”

Other places in the world have also seen people suffer as a result of taking chloroquine phosphate in relation to the coronavirus. At least three individuals in Nigeria have been hospitalized after taking it, according to reports.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated to include quotes from NBC and reflect clarifications provided by Banner Health about the different formulations of chloroquine phosphate, as well as an update to the woman’s condition.

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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