There were two cases of poisoning with the anti-malaria drug chloroquine in Nigeria after President Donald Trump praised it as a possible cure for the new coronavirus. Two people were hospitalized for overdosing on the drug in Lagos, Oreoluwa Finnih, senior health assistant to the governor of Lagos, said in an interview with Bloomberg. Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control sent out a tweet Saturday making clear that the World Health Organization has not approved the anti-malaria drug for COVID-19.
The overdoses on chloroquine came after Trump sang the praises of two malaria drugs—chlorquine and a less toxic related pill called hydrochloroquine—and pretty much characterized them as possible miracle cures for COVID-19. That led to people rushing out to buy the drugs and there were reports of high demand in Nigeria leading to shortages in pharmacies. Trump doubled down on the dubious medical advice Saturday, writing on Twitter about another unproven combination of drugs, claiming that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin “taken together” could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.” Trump went on to express optimism that they will be “put in use IMMEDIATELY” because “PEOPLE ARE DYING.” To make his point, Trump cited a report in a scientific journal that only studied 20 patients and was not a controlled clinical trial.
Earlier in the week, Trump had said he had a good feeling about the use of anti-malaria drugs for COVID-19. “I feel good about it. That’s all it is. Just a feeling,” he said. “You know, I’m a smart guy. I feel good about it. And we’re going to see. You’re going to see soon enough.” Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, pushed back against the claim emphasizing that it was all based on anecdotal evidence.
Trump cheerleading of the unproven treatment has led to concerns about possible shortages among doctors and patients with diseases, including lupus, that rely on the drugs. “Rheumatologists are furious about the hype going on over this drug,” Dr. Michael Lockshin, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, tells the New York Times. “There is a run on it and we’re getting calls every few minutes, literally, from patients who are trying to stay on the drug and finding it in short supply.”