Kenyan medics have raised alarm after a worrying spike in demand for three drugs that have been touted as a treatment for Covid-19.
The three drugs, chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin are sold only on a prescription basis but citizens have managed to bypass this and access the drugs.
The surge in demand can be attributed to misleading information from US President Donald Trump’s White House address on Friday, March 20 claiming that the drugs had shown positive results in treating the Covid-19 virus.
“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 they did it — they took it down from many, many months… So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states,” stated Trump.
Speaking to Daily Nation on Tuesday, March 24, Dr Daniella Munene, the CEO of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) warned Kenyans against self-medication on these drugs.
“Without the input of a healthcare professional, you are exposed to various risks from these medicines such as weakened immunity, thus increasing your risk of severe Covid-19 infection,” she explained.
The doctor elaborated that the use of these drugs without an expert opinion was dangerous. This was due to the fact that their effects varied depending on factors such as gender, age or pre-existing medical conditions. All these are considered when doctors prescribe the drug.
The PSK CEO also warned that the hoarding of the drugs could result in a severe shortage in the country, placing those who needed the drugs to treat preexisting conditions at risk.
“This behaviour is irresponsible and reckless in the face of a pandemic that has the potential to be the biggest challenge yet to our health system. Hoarding these essential medicines means that patients who depend on them to improve their quality of life daily, or those who might eventually get Covid-19, will be adversely affected by the shortage that will ensue,” stated Munene.
In Nigeria, three people had overdosed on the drugs while self-medicating. As per the country’s health officials, the three were hospitalized and are undertreatment.
The case was replicated in Arizona, US where a man died after taking chloroquine to treat Covid-19. His wife, who also self-medicated on the drug is still under critical care.
Health experts continue to urge the public not to self-medicate on the drugs owing to their unpredictable effects.