In a high-profile case last month, an Arizona man died and his wife needed to be hospitalized after they swallowed an aquarium product to try to prevent getting COVID-19. The product contained a form of chloroquine, a chemical that is also found an anti-malaria drug.
The medical forms of chloroquine and a related chemical, hydroxychloroquine, are prescribed for certain conditions, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. They are still being studied as a possible treatment for COVID-19, and because of the pandemic, the FDA is allowing doctors to give these drugs to COVID-19 patients in certain circumstances. However, it’s important to understand that these medications are only safe if used in very specific ways, and they can be dangerous or even deadly if they are used in the wrong way.
This is not the only instance of people taking unsafe steps to try to prevent the illness. In some cases people have become sick after taking medications meant for cows, because the medications are used to prevent other types of coronaviruses—not the one that causes COVID-19—in those animals. Animal medications have not been tested on humans and therefore cannot be considered safe and effective.
We are all trying to do our best to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and medication safety is as important as ever. Here are some important things to remember:
- Only take prescription medications if they have been prescribed to you. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, and don’t share your prescription medications with anybody else.
- Only use over-the-counter medications for reasons listed on the product label, and carefully follow all the instructions on the label.
- Do not use nonmedical products to treat an illness or condition, unless your doctor tells you to.
While there are studies underway, experts are not yet sure whether hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine or other medications will prevent or treat COVID-19. The best things we can do right now are to follow these basic guidelines:
- Stay home except when necessary.
- Wash your hands frequently—or use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available—and avoid touching your face.
- Keep at least 6 feet away from people who don’t live with you.
- Wear a face covering in public—remembering to still stay 6 feet away from others.
Please see the CDC’s website for a full list of recommendations.