The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday warned against taking antimalarial drug chloroquine phosphate used to cure fish disease in aquariums as treatment against COVID-19 cases.
The warning followed a misuse of the drug in Arizona, which caused one death and one critical illness.
The FDA said some consumers may mistake chloroquine phosphate used to treat disease in aquarium fish for FDA-approved drugs that are being studied as a COVID-19 treatment for humans.
"Unfortunately, we have learned that one person in the United States has died after he and his wife reportedly took chloroquine used to treat their fish in an attempt to prevent COVID-19; his wife also became very ill," said the FDA in a letter to stakeholders.
"While FDA is aware of the use of unapproved drugs to treat aquarium fish, our primary concern during the COVID-19 pandemic is the imminent threat to the health of consumers who may take animal drugs thinking they are interchangeable with approved human drugs," said the agency.
Chloroquine products sold for aquarium use have not been evaluated by the FDA to determine whether they are safe, effective, properly manufactured, and adequately labeled for use in fish, let alone humans.
People should not take any form of chloroquine unless it has been prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider and is obtained through a legitimate source, the FDA noted.
US President Donald Trump said earlier an antimalarial drug, which he called as "chloroquine" or "hydroxychloroquine", will soon be made available with a prescription to treat the novel coronavirus.
Trump said the drug has shown "very, very encouraging" early results, adding he has pushed the FDA to eliminate barriers to getting therapeutics for coronavirus patients.
But some medicine and immunology experts expressed concern about the results and safety of the drug.
"The drugs of this class can have side effects and it is also still quite possible that it is not effective," Robert Schooley, professor of medicine at the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, told Xinhua.