Two poisoned in Nigeria after Trump hails antimalarials

The pair took the drug chloroquine after the US President praised it

President Donald Trump speaks during press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House, Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Washington. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, at left, and Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, at right listen. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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Nigeria reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning after US President Donald Trump praised its sister drug as a treatment for the novel coronavirus.

Health officials are warning Nigerians against self-medicating after demand for the antimalarial medicine surged in Lagos, a city home to 20 million people.

Two people were admitted to hospital in Lagos for chloroquine overdoses, Oreoluwa Finnih, senior health assistant to the city’s governor, said in an interview.

“Please don’t panic,” she said by 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.”

Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control said the World Health Organisation had not approved use of the drug for treating the virus.

Africa’s most populous country had reported 22 infections as of Saturday.

President Trump said on Thursday that chloroquine and its less toxic cousin hydroxychloroquine had shown “tremendous promise” to treat the new illness.

Hospitals in the US are rushing to stockpile the drugs.

The president doubled down on Saturday in a pair of tweets, telling his followers that “Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, taken together” could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” and urged them to “be put in use IMMEDIATELY”.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved the antimalarials to treat Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

While chloroquine is no longer used to treat malaria in Africa, some pharmacies still stock it for patients with some autoimmune diseases or who are resistant to other antimalarial drugs.