Health officials in Nigeria have issued a warning over chloroquine after they said three people in the country overdosed on the drug, in the wake of President Trump’s comments about using it to treat coronavirus.
A Lagos state official told CNN that three people were hospitalized in the city after taking the drug. Officials later issued a statement cautioning against using chloroquine for Covid-19 treatment.
US President Donald Trump claimed at a White House briefing last week that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the “very powerful” drug chloroquine to treat coronavirus.
“It’s shown very encouraging — very, very encouraging early results. And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that’s where the FDA has been so great. They — they’ve gone through the approval process; it’s been approved. And they did it — they took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states,” Trump said.
He added: “Normally the FDA 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.”
However, the FDA after the briefing issued a statement saying it had not approved the drug for use against Covid-19 and is still studying its effectiveness against the disease.
Trump’s endorsement of the drug led to a surge of interest among Nigerians keen to stock up on the medication, which has led to inevitable price hikes in the megacity of around 20 million inhabitants.
One man told CNN that in a pharmacy near his home on the Lagos mainland, he witnessed the price rise by more than 400% in a matter of minutes.
Kayode Fabunmi, a Lagos-based lawyer, said: “The pharmacist knew the market and was saying to every incoming customer, ‘You know Donald Trump has said this thing cures coronavirus,’ and the price kept changing.
“The original price was 200 naira (around 50 cents), then it became 500 naira ($1.38) then it became 1,000 naira ($2.77) while I was there,” he said.
The Lagos State Health Ministry issued a brief statement saying there was no “hard evidence that chloroquine is effective in prevention or management of coronavirus infection.”
Chloroquine is used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Malaria is an endemic disease in Nigeria and other parts of Africa and for many years, it was common to treat it with chloroquine. However, at least 40 African countries, including Nigeria, have phased it out as a frontline antimalarial drug and replaced it with other drugs following widespread resistance to it.
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