Earlier today Axios reported that an Arizona couple died after taking chloroquine phosphate. Axios was particularly careful to mention that chloroquine is one of the drugs currently being touted by President Trump as a possible cure for Chinese Coronavirus.
“A man has died and his wife is under critical care after the couple, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate,” one of the anti-malaria drugs that President Trump has mentioned in recent days, according to Banner Health, the hospital system that treated both patients.
Why it matters: People who self-medicate risk serious side effects or death, and it’s why any messaging about chloroquine and the related hydroxychloroquine should emphasize that these drugs have not been approved to prevent or treat the new coronavirus.
The story was dutifully tweeted by Dr. Dena Grayson who sure made it sound like the couple had taken the exact drug that President Trump was praising as a potential game changer.
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) March 23, 2020
🚫As I warned, these anti-malarial drugs are associated with potentially FATAL side effects and should only be taken under close supervision of a doctor.#coronavirus #COVID19 #chloroquine #hydroxychloroquine https://t.co/kJpG3ZFupT
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) March 23, 2020
What Dr. Grayson and Axios fail to mention, of course, is that the Arizona couple did not take chloroquine as prescribed by a doctor. What they took was actually a chloroquine phosphate solution designed to clean fish tanks.
Fox 10 Phoenix seems to be the only news outlet honestly reporting on this story:
Medical exerts with Banner Health are warning the public against using inappropriate medication and household products to prevent or treat coronavirus.
The warning by Banner Health comes after after an Arizona man in his 60s died from taking a substance used to clean fish tanks at aquariums in order to prevent contracting COVID-19.
In a statement released on Monday, experts emphasized that chloroquine, which is a medication used for malaria, should not be taken to treat or prevent COVID-19.
Banner Health officials say the man who died, along with his wife, both took chloroquine phosphate. The man’s wife, who was also in her 60s, is currently under critical care.
Officials say both were taken to a Banner Health hospital for immediate treatment, after they experienced immediate effects within 30 minutes of taking the substance.
Axios and Dr. Grayson aren’t the only ones misrepresenting (re: lying) this story, however. Reuters got in on the action with the ominous headline “Arizona man dies after taking chloroquine for coronavirus:”
An Arizona man has died and his wife is in critical condition after they ingested chloroquine phosphate – an aquarium cleaning product similar to drugs that have been named by President Trump as potential treatments for coronavirus infection.
The couple, in their 60s, experienced immediate distress after swallowing the drug, an additive used at aquariums to clean fish tanks, according to Banner Health Hospital in Phoenix.
Chloroquine phosphate shares the same active ingredient as malaria drugs that President Trump has touted as possibly effective against COVID-19, the potentially life-threatening disease caused by the coronavirus.
To their credit, Reuters did make a passing attempt at being objective by stating in the opening paragraph that the Arizona couple ingested fish tank cleaner. That’s more than Axios and Dr. Grayson did. Of course, they did attempt to hoodwink the reader into thinking the fish tank cleaner is similar to the pharmaceutical chloroquine.
Unfortunately, saying fish tank cleaner and chloroquine are similar is kind of like saying bleach and penicillin are similar because they both kill bacteria.
The New York Times got in on the fake news action with their own misleading tweet as well.
An Arizona man died and his wife was hospitalized after officials said they ingested a fish tank additive that contained the same active ingredient as an anti-malaria drug, which President Trump has referred to as a coronavirus “game changer” https://t.co/WPZ8fazDYG
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 24, 2020
To be clear, President Trump has not advocated that anyone treat themselves with chloroquine. He certainly has not called on people to drink fish tank cleaning solution because it’ll help keep the Kung Flu at bay.
What President Trump has said is that there is evidence-three international studies worth-that chloroquine and azithromycin taken together can successfully treat Chinese Coronavirus. President Trump is correct that such a development could very well be a game changer in the fight against Chinese Coronavirus. Which is why he has ordered human trials to begin in New York to find out whether or not this particular cocktail of drugs actually works.
What President Trump has not done is called chloroquine a cure for Chinese Coronavirus. He most certainly has not called on Americans to self-medicate using fish tank cleaner.
You wouldn’t know that if you just read the Axios article or Dr. Grayson’s tweets.
The danger is what happens if/when people believe this deceptive reporting. How many people will read the Axios article without clicking through to the detailed announcement by Banner Health? How many people will take Dr. Grayson’s tweets at face value because she’s a doctor?
What happens when these same people get sick with a potentially life threatening illness and refuse to take a potentially effective treatment because they read that it can kill you?
Will the fake news media and personalities such as Dr. Grayson be held accountable for the people who died because they believed their lies?
Somehow I doubt it.