An Arizona man has died and his wife was hospitalized after the couple had ingested chloroquine phosphate (chloroquine) — an aquarium and fish-tank cleaning product. The pair swallowed the offshoot version of the drug Sunday to ward-off the coronavirus after seeing President Donald Trump talk about the potential benefits of chloroquine in the treatment of the novel coronavirus.

The man’s wife is in critical condition.

The pharmaceutical name matched the label on a bottle of chemicals that the couple had used to cleanse their koi fish’s pond. Upon remembering the chemical name, she and her husband mixed the koi pond treatment in soda and swallowed it.


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“I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?'” she told NBC on the condition of anonymity.

The aquatic cleanser does contain the same active ingredient, chloroquine, but the chemical composition is different. And while it effectively fends off marine parasites, and protects ornamental fish and other pelagic species, the alternative form is lethal to people.

The pair, who are in their 60s, experienced abrupt distress, within 30-minutes, after swallowing the drug, according to Banner Health Hospital in Phoenix.

“We were afraid of getting sick,” the woman reported.

The wife reported that the pair fell feverish, “dizzy” and “ill.”

She stated that her husband developed respiratory complications within 20-minutes.

Then “I started vomiting,” the woman said.

Her husband died almost instantaneously. The woman is under “critical care,” according to a news release from the Banner Health Hospital.

Chloroquine phosphate shares a near-identical name and is composed of the same active ingredient of a series of anti-malaria drugs that Trump has promoted to treat COVID-19.

Trump had tweeted Saturday that a mixture of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin was a potential “game-changer” in the treatment of the novel coronavirus.


“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director. “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.”

“We are strongly urging the medical community to not prescribe this medication to any non-hospitalized patients,” Brooks said.

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