Donald Trump, who is decidedly not a doctor and barely qualifies as a human, is now directly responsible for people’s deaths after he announced that the antimalarials chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could potentially be used to treat covid-19.
While the drugs have (controversially) been prescribed by some U.S. doctors to treat the virus, their efficacy has not yet been vetted with full-scale clinical studies. But that didn’t stop Trump from offering his hearty, if not medically-validated endorsement of the drugs as potential treatment. “If things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump asserted, doubling down on his utterly invalid opinion in a tweet.
Now, Trump’s assertion has sent people around the world scrambling to get their hands on the drugs, leading to shortages and deaths.
In Phoenix, a man has died and his wife is in critical condition after the couple, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate, an additive often used to clean fish tanks in attempt to self-medicate. In Nigeria, there have been at least two cases of chloroquine poisoning.
“Please don’t panic,” Oreoluwa Finnih, senior health assistant to the governor of Lagos, said in a text message. “Chloroquine is still in a testing phase in combination with other medication and not yet verified as a preventive treatment or curative option.”
What hydroxychloroquine is used to treat, however, is lupus. Following Trump’s proclamation, patients suffering from the autoimmune disorder have found themselves unable to fill their prescriptions due to shortages.
“Please do not misuse hydroxychloroquine,” Anna Valdez, who has been taking the drug to manage lupus for 15 years, wrote on Twitter. “This med is critical for people who have SLE, like me. I was told today that my prescription cannot be filled because the suppliers are completely out. Now I do not have the meds I actually need for an incurable disease I actually have.”
Actual doctors are now pleading with the public not to try to chloroquine on their own.
“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,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, the health center that admitted the Arizona couple.
“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.”