FDA commissioner warns against self-medicating with chloroquine used in fish tanks

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The commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn, is warning against self-medicating with any form of chloroquine phosphate unless prescribed by a doctor.

While the anti-malaria drug chloroquine has been touted by President Trump as a potential treatment for coronavirus, an Arizona man died this week after taking a form of the substance used in aquariums.

“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,” Hahn said in a series of tweets Wednesday. “We want to warn consumers that this product [is] sold to treat parasites in aquarium fish and may have adverse effects, including serious illness or death, when taken by people.”

Hahn said that there is currently “no FDA-approved treatment” for Covid-19, and he said that chloroquine should only be taken if prescribed by a health care provider and obtained from legitimate sources.

“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,” Hahn said, adding that “these have NOT been evaluated by FDA for safety and effectiveness & might be dangerous to you and your family.”

There is limited evidence, partly from studies on human cells, that chloroquine – or its closely-related analogue, hydroxychloroquine – could have antiviral effects.

Doctors in China, France, the US and other countries have used the drug experimentally in Covid-19 patients, but there is not yet sufficient clinical evidence that it’s effective in humans.

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