Authorities in Nigerian megacity Lagos said that hospitals had seen cases of chloroquine poisoning after US President Donald Trump touted the drug as a treatment against the new coronavirus.
Trump on Thursday said the anti-malarial drug had been “approved” to treat COVID-19 by America’s Food and Drug Administration, only for the head of the agency to row back and say it had not yet been given a definitive green light.
The drug has recently been used to treat coronavirus patients in China and in France, where some researchers said it showed great promise, though scientists agree that only more trials would determine if it really works and is safe.
Health officials in Lagos said there had already been claims online pushing chloroquine as a treatment and that Trump’s message had seen interest surge.
“In the last few days, we’ve seen a lot of messages going around on social media about chloroquine being a cure for coronavirus and in some parts of Lagos, it was no longer available,” Ore Awokoya, senior special assistant to the Lagos state governor on health, told AFP.
“But after Donald Trump’s statement it took another dimension, people were massively queueing in front of the pharmacies to buy chloroquine.”
She described the rush to take the drug as “worrying” given that people were “self-medicating without any sort of guidance”.
“We’ve already registered two cases of poisoning — the patients have been hospitalised in Lagos — but we will probably see more and more cases in the coming days,” she said.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has so far recorded 12 confirmed cases of new coronavirus infections, but testing has been limited.
The nation of some 200 million people is seen as highly vulnerable to the global pandemic given its weak health system and high population density.
Health authorities in Lagos on Thursday said that there were now cases of “local transmission” of the virus in the city.