Christa Hyson, MPH
Senior Manager, External Relations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – READ IN SPANISH
Severe Illness Associated with Using Non-Pharmaceutical Chloroquine Phosphate to Prevent and Treat Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Chloroquine phosphate, when used without a prescription and supervision of a healthcare provider, can cause serious health consequences, including death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has become aware of two individuals who ingested non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate, a chemical for aquarium use that is commercially available for purchase at stores and through the internet.
One of the individuals died shortly after arrival to the hospital. The second individual was critically ill with severe gastrointestinal symptoms and cardiac conduction abnormalities. Upon recovery, the surviving individual reported to the media that they ingested the product to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), after seeing information on the medical use of chloroquine on television. The product in their possession was in powder form inside a 2.2-lb. container and labeled, “for Ornamental Fish Use Only”.
At this time, there are no routinely available pharmaceutical products that are FDA-approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. Pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat specific medical conditions, such as malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Currently, these medications are being studied and evaluated as treatment for COVID-19; however, their efficacy to either prevent or treat this infection are unknown.
In overdose situations or when used inappropriately, these medications can lead to severe toxicity, including cardiac rhythm disturbances such as severe hypokalemia, cardiovascular collapse, seizures, coma, and death. Inappropriate uses include taking commercially available non-pharmaceutical preparations, taking chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine sulfate without a prescription, and taking additional doses not recommended by a healthcare provider. Chloroquine phosphate has a narrow therapeutic index—it can be toxic at levels not much higher than those used for treatment—which raises the risk of inadvertent overdose.
- Do not ingest aquarium use products or any other chemicals that contain chloroquine phosphate. These chemicals are not intended for human consumption and can lead to serious health consequences, including death.
- Medications like chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate should be taken only when prescribed by and under the supervision of your healthcare provider and always according to the instructions provided.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any unexpected symptoms after taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine by contacting your healthcare provider or your poison center (1-800-222-1222).
Right now, the most important thing for Greater Cincinnati residents to do is to continue prevention measures:
- Follow social distancing procedures and stay at home orders outlined by local and state governments.
- Clean your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or upper arm.
- Stay home from work/ school/ activities if you are feeling ill.
- If you are a high-risk individual, please review these extra precautions.
For more information about COVID-19 visit: https://healthcollab.org/covid-19/
About The Health Collaborative: The Health Collaborative is a non-profit organization that leads data-driven improvements that result in healthier people, better care and lower costs. For more information about The Health Collaborative, visit healthcollab.org.