Warning: Chloroquine Only for Use Under a Doctor's Care

CDC warns consumers about risks tied to non-pharmaceutical chloroquine

(RxWiki News) Chloroquine continues to be in the news as the number of COVID-19 cases rises. And now health officials are warning about improper use of this substance.

Currently, pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine are being studied as treatments for COVID-19. However, their efficacy to prevent or treat COVID-19 is unknown at this time.

Both of these medications are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat malaria

Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Chloroquine phosphate (non-pharmaceutical) is a chemical used in home aquariums. It is sold in stores and online.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been notified about two individuals who took non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate as a way to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19).

One of the individuals died after arriving at the hospital. The other individual was critically ill and experienced severe stomach symptoms and heart problems.

After recovery, the surviving individual reported that they took this product after seeing information on TV about how chloroquine was being used for COVID-19.

The CDC is now warning consumers about chloroquine phosphate that is used without a prescription and a doctor's supervision. Taking non-pharmaceutical chloroquine phosphate can lead to serious health consequences, including death.

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are ONLY to be taken under a doctor's supervision in the form of prescribed medications.

Currently, no medications are approved to prevent or treat COVID-19, according to the FDA.

Misusing prescription chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can be dangerous. This is because chloroquine phosphate has a narrow therapeutic window. It can be toxic even at levels near what is recommended for treatment.

When used inappropriately, these drugs can cause:

  • Severe low potassium levels
  • Serious heart issues
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Note: Inappropriate uses include taking non-pharmaceutical products, taking these drugs without a prescription and a doctor's supervision and taking more than recommended.

The CDC recommends the following:

  1. Do not take aquarium products that contain chloroquine phosphate. These chemicals are not for human ingestion. These products can lead to serious adverse events — even death.
  2. Only take chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate when these drugs are prescribed by a doctor and you are under a doctor's supervision.
  3. Take your prescribed medications according to the instructions provided.
  4. Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any unexpected side effects from chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Call your health care provider or your poison control center (1-800-222-1222).
Last Updated:
April 25, 2020