In Lagos State and other government hospitals, Nigerians are in hospital after being poisoned by hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug that U.S. President Donald Trump is touting as a possible cure for the novel coronavirus.
Nigerian health authorities are rushing to clamp down on a wave of unauthorized use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that Mr. Trump is promoting as a treatment for COVID-19. They urgently warned people not to self-medicate with unproven treatments.
This weekend, Mr. Trump continued to praise the drug, tweeting on Saturday that it had “a real chance to be one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine.” He also lauded it at several press conferences last week.
But the safety and effectiveness of the drug, and a related drug known as chloroquine, is unproven for use against the coronavirus. Chloroquine is known to be dangerous if used without medical supervision.
It noted that the World Health Organization has not approved the use of chloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus.
Despite warnings from health experts that chloroquine has not been tested for treating COVID-19, Trump falsely claimed during a press briefing Sunday that the evidence for chloroquine’s effectiveness in treating the coronavirus is “very strong.”
“Why should we be testing it in a test tube for a year and a half when we have thousands of people that are very sick, and we can use it on those people and maybe make them better?” the president asked.
Sunday’s briefing was not the first time Trump has peddled false or unproven claims about chloroquine’s effectiveness in treating COVID-19.
“Now, a drug called chloroquine—and some people would add to it ‘hydroxy-.’ Hydroxychloroquine. So chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Now, this is a common malaria drug,” Trump said during a briefing last Thursday. “The nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it—if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.”
“There’s tremendous promise,” Trump continued. “And normally the [Food and Drug Administration] would take a long time to approve something like that, and it’s—it was approved very, very quickly and it’s now approved, by prescription.”
After the president’s remarks, the FDA issued a statement clarifying that it is “investigating” chloroquine as a possible coronavirus treatment but has not yet approved the drug for that purpose.
On Friday, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) put out a tweet noting that the World Health Organization “has NOT approved the use of chloroquine for COVID-19 management.”
“Scientists are working hard to confirm the safety of several drugs for this disease,” NCDC added. “Please DO NOT engage in self-medication. This will cause harm and can lead to death.”
Ignoring warnings from medical professionals, Trump proceeded to double down on his claim about chloroquine’s effectiveness in a pair of tweets on Saturday, declaring to his nearly 75 million Twitter followers that “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine.”
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents)…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020
“It only took a day for the president’s tweets to get people hospitalized,” lamented one Twitter user.
Dr. Oreoluwa Finnih, a senior assistant to the Lagos State governor on health issues, said hospitals across the state “have started receiving patients suffering from chloroquine poisoning.” In a tweet, she urged Nigerians to refrain from the “massive consumption” of the drug.
#FactsNotFear@WHO has NOT approved the use of chloroquine for #COVID19 management. Scientists are working hard to confirm the safety of several drugs for this disease.— NCDC (@NCDCgov) March 20, 2020
Please DO NOT engage in self-medication. This will cause harm and can lead to death.#COVID19Nigeria pic.twitter.com/K6kljq0VtW
Until last week, Nigeria had only three confirmed cases of the coronavirus. But the number of confirmed cases has surged to 30 in the past five days, sparking a growing sense of fear.
The U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stood beside Mr. Trump at a televised press conference on Friday and contradicted the President’s claims about the anti-malarial drugs. Asked by a reporter whether there was any clear evidence of chloroquine’s effectiveness against the coronavirus, Dr. Fauci said: “No.”
He added: “The information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Mr. Trump’s boosterish attitude toward chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine has fuelled shortages for patients and doctors who need the drugs for other diseases such as lupus.
While the African continent has not been as badly affected by the coronavirus as most other regions of the world, the number of confirmed cases is rising rapidly. By Sunday night, there were nearly 1,400 confirmed cases in 43 countries across the African continent.
No Better Than Regular Coronavirus Care, Study FindsJournal of Zhejiang University in China
Hydroxychloroquine, a medicine for malaria that President Donald Trump has touted as a treatment for coronavirus, was no more effective than conventional care, a small study found.
The report published by the Journal of Zhejiang University in China showed that patients who got the medicine didn’t fight off the new coronavirus more often than those who did not get the medicine.
The study involved just 30 patients. Of the 15 patients given the malaria drug, 13 tested negative for the coronavirus after a week of treatment. Of the 15 patients who didn’t get hydroxychloroquine, 14 tested negative for the virus.
The results of the study weren’t statistically significant.
South Africa, the country with the second-largest number of cases in Africa, announced 34 new confirmed cases on Sunday night, bringing its total to 274 cases.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is planning a televised address to the nation on Monday to announce further measures against the coronavirus. He has already announced a ban on air travel into the country by foreign nationals, a ban on social gatherings of more than 100 people, and a ban on serving alcohol in taverns or restaurants after 6 p.m.
Many other African countries have sealed their borders, shut down commercial flights and banned most social gatherings.
Rwanda, with 19 confirmed cases, has imposed a full lockdown on its residents, banning all movement outside the home except for essential reasons such as food or health care. It is the first African country to do so.
There have been 44 deaths caused by COVID-19 across Africa, including 17 deaths in Algeria and 10 in Egypt.