An Arizona man has died and his wife is in intensive care after they overdosed on a drug which Donald Trump incorrectly touted as a coronavirus treatment on TV.

The two became violently ill within half an hour of ingesting chloroquine phosphate, which they found in fish tank cleaner. They had not tested positive for the virus but took it as a misguided precaution.

“Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” the woman told NBC from her hospital bed.

“I had it in the house because I used to have koi fish, I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?'”

Her message for anyone else considering self-administering the drug is clear: “Don’t take anything. Don’t believe anything. Don’t believe anything that the President says and his people… call your doctor.”

In a press briefing, Trump falsely claimed the FDA had approved the drug. While it is approved to treat malaria, it has not been approved to treat COVID-19.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

The FDA has not approved the drug as a COVID-19 treatment and health experts warn that taking it could be fatal.

While there is anecdotal evidence from limited cases that the drug may be effective against the virus, it is still too early to be certain and side effects are severe.

In Nigeria, three more people have overdosed on chloroquine after hearing Trump’s comments, officials in the city of Lagos said.

On the same day as the American deaths, billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer went on Sunrise to pledge funding for million doses of the drug in Australia.

“People are being treated with the drug in Jordan, the United States and France — that’s why I funded the trial,” he said.

There have been no reported overdoses of the drug in Australia, and it is currently undergoing trials in Queensland and Victoria.


If you think you may have coronavirus, either call your doctor (DON’T visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you’re struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

And please remember to wash your hands frequently (for at least 20 seconds) and keep at least 1.5 metres between you and those around you.

Image: Getty Images / The Washington Post