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Man who self-medicated with unproven coronavirus drug dies in Arizona

Use of chloroquine -- a treatment touted by President Donald Trump -- landed a couple in their 60s in the hospital.

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An Arizona man has died and his wife is in critical condition after taking chloroquine phosphate, a chemical used to treat malaria but also commercially available for cleaning fish tanks. 

Some preliminary research has shown that chloroquine could be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, leading both President Donald Trump and Elon Musk to suggest it might help fight the pandemic. However, the data on chloroquine as a treatment is far from conclusive, and experts caution against its use.

"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," Dr. Daniel Brooks of Banner Health, which runs the hospital where the couple were treated, said in a statement. "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."

The couple were both in their 60s and, within 30 minutes of ingesting the chemical, experienced "immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital." 

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Neither the huband nor wife in the couple had tested positive for COVID-19, the hospital said in another statement.

The CDC reports that some hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the US have received chloroquine or its derivative, hydroxychloroquine, on a compassionate, or experimental, basis. 

"There are no currently available data from Randomized Clinical Trials (RCTs) to inform clinical guidance on the use, dosing, or duration of hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis or treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection," the CDC's website reads

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