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Don’t Take Chloroquine Without a Doctor’s Supervision, You Might Die

Doctor holding a box of tablets.
baranq/Shutterstock

The coronavirus outbreak has people terrified, but now is not the time to be taking drugs without medical supervision—and it’s especially not the time to be taking unregulated fish drugs.

We recently talked about the emerging news of antimalarial drug chloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment, in the context of an article about how nobody should get hopeful that tonic water (which was used, historically, to treat malaria) would offer similar protections.

Between then and now, the news about chloroquine spread to the point that people started buying powered chloroquine phosphate used for the treatment of fishtanks, as a coronavirus prophylactic.

An Arizona man is dead and his wife is in critical condition after doing just such a thing. The treating hospital has issued a press release:

Medical toxicologists and emergency physicians are warning the public against the use of inappropriate medications and household products to prevent or treat COVID-19. In particular, Banner Health experts emphasize that chloroquine, a malaria medication, should not be ingested to treat or prevent this virus.

“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.”

A man has died and his wife is under critical care after the couple, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate, an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks. Within thirty minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital.

Most patients who become infected with COVID-19 will only require symptomatic care and self-isolation to prevent the risk of infecting others. Check first with a primary care physician. The routine use of specific treatments, including medications described as ‘anti-COVID-19’, is not recommended for non-hospitalized patients, including the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.

“We are strongly urging the medical community to not prescribe this medication to any non-hospitalized patients,” said Dr. Brooks.

If chloroquine ends up being a COVID-19 miracle drug (and that, at the moment, remains a substantial if) you still need to take it under the care of a medical provider and only at the dose, and within the context, they prescribe.

If you need motivation beyond that, consider this: when the drug was first discovered in the 1930s, it was shelved for over a decade because it was believed to be too toxic for human consumption. This is not a drug that should be administered without strict medical supervision.

Further, this goes for all pet-versions of medications. Chloroquine phosphate isn’t the only compound sold for fish and exotic pets that is also chemically similar or identical to compounds used to treat humans. There are also antifungals and antibiotics available for fishkeepers to use as treatments for their aquatic stock.

But there are no regulations or oversight on the production of fish medication. So, not only is it wildly dangerous to self-medicate in the first place, but you could be self-medicating with a fish medication that isn’t just the incorrect drug for you to use but with indeterminate purity, dosage levels, or even harmful chemicals in the mix.

In short, everyone needs to remain calm in the face of this very unsettling pandemic and not resort to trying to proactively treat themselves at home (and especially not with bulk compounds intended for fish).

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »

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