Health Care

FDA commissioner warns public against taking ‘any form of chloroquine’ unless prescribed


Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is urging the public not to take “any form of chloroquine” unless prescribed by health care provider.

Hahn’s comments come after a man recently died from consuming chloroquine phosphate because he thought it would help prevent him from contracting COVID-19.

“The chloroquine phosphate used for treating aquarium fish is not the same as the FDA-approved chloroquine being studied as a possible treatment for #COVID19,” he wrote in a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon. “Do not take any form of chloroquine unless prescribed to you by a health care provider & obtained from legitimate sources.

“We want to warn consumers that this product sold to treat parasites in aquarium fish and may have adverse effects, including serious illness or death, when taken by people,” he continued.

Earlier this week, health care company Banner Health announced that an Arizona man had died and his wife had been in critical condition after they consumed chloroquine phosphate.

“Within thirty minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital,” the company said at the time.

The wife has since told NBC News that she and her husband consumed the substance because they thought it would help prevent them from contracting the novel coronavirus after watching press briefings where President Trump touted benefits of the antimalarial drug, chloroquine. 

“I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?’” the wife told the news outlet.

During one recent briefing, Trump claimed the FDA had approved chloroquine as a treatment for the virus, CNN reported.

“It’s shown very encouraging – very, very encouraging early results. And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that’s where the FDA has been so great,” he said, according to CNN. “They’ve gone through the approval process; it’s been approved. And they did it – they took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states.

“Normally the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that,” he added. “And it was approved very, very quickly and it’s now approved, by prescription.”

However, while the FDA has approved the drug for treating malaria and other illnesses, the agency said in a statement that officials are still working “to determine whether it can be used to treat patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 to potentially reduce the duration of symptoms, as well as viral shedding, which can help prevent the spread of disease.”

Hahn also made clear on Twitter Wednesday that, while the FDA is working to develop a treatment for COVID-19, “no FDA-approved treatment currently exists.” 

“Consumers should be extremely cautious of products claiming to treat #COVID19,” he tweeted on Wednesday, adding: “Some people and companies are trying to profit from the pandemic by selling unproven/illegally marketed products claiming to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent #COVID19 — these have NOT been evaluated by FDA for safety and effectiveness & might be dangerous to you and your family.”

Tags Antimalarial medication chloroquine Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Food and Drug Administration

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