FDA, Lysol issue warnings about Trump's treatment ideas for COVID-19

Tresa Baldas

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President Donald Trump insisted Friday that he was being "sarcastic" when he raised the possibility of disinfectants being injected into people to combat COVID-19. (April 24)

AP Domestic

The Food and Drug Administration and the makers of Lysol warned that President Donald Trump's suggested treatments for COVID-19 — disinfectants and hydroxychloroquine — could kill.

"We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body," the British maker of Lysol, Reckitt Benckiser, warned in a statement Friday, one day after Trump suggested possibly injecting disinfectants into the human body to kill the novel coronavirus.

During a bill signing on Friday, Trump said his disinfectant suggestion wasn't  "serious."

"I was asking sarcastically to reporters just like you," he said, "to see what would happen.

But the makers of Lysol took him seriously,  saying its disinfectant and hygiene products "should only be used as intended" and that the company has a "responsibility in providing consumers with access to accurate, up-to-date information as advised by leading public health experts."

The Environmental Protection Agency also has weighed in on the proper use of cleaning products, warning: “Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products.”

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President Donald Trump listens during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Washington. (Photo: Evan Vucci, Associated Press)

Trump also got pushback about hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, the anti-malarial drugs that he has repeatedly touted as potential COVID-19 cures.

For the first time since the pandemic was declared six weeks ago, the FDA  warned Americans on Friday against taking hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine outside a hospital setting or clinical trial, citing reports of poisoning and "serious and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems"  in coronavirus patients who used the drugs.

“We understand that health care professionals are looking for every possible treatment option for their patients and we want to ensure we’re providing them with the appropriate information needed for them to make the best medical decisions,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn stated on Friday.  “While clinical trials are ongoing to determine the safety and effectiveness of these drugs for COVID-19, there are known side effects of these medications that should be considered."

The FDA said that it will continue to monitor and investigate the potential risks of hydroxychloroquine, and will communicate publicly when more information is available.

Hydroxychloroquine is FDA-approved to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, though the agency says it has not been proven safe or effective for treating COVID-19.

University of Michigan Emergency physician Mahshid Abir said she hopes the FDA warning will put to rest all the "misinformation" about hydroxychloroquine "so that people don't suffer the adverse effects of this drug."

"Before there was science out there, there was a push for the use of this drug," said Abir, adding "misinformation was put out there prematurely about the potential benefit of the drug."

Abir said to date, she hasn't seen any COVID-19 patients benefit from the drug.

Neither has Anthony Ognjan, an infectious disease specialist at McLaren Macomb Hospital.

"We've been at this for, it seems like forever. We've used (hydroxychloroquine) a lot and I don't really see a clinical difference. There doesn't seem to be a benefit to using this drug,"  Ognjan said. "The vast majority of people tolerated it, but there was no benefit to using it."

Ognjan said the drug, however, is still being used sporadically in COVID-19 patients, and that they are monitored closely. He stressed: "We really don't know what the best treatment for this disease is."

But what doctors do know, Ognjan said, is that household disinfectants are not the answer.

"They're poisons, just like any kind of toxin," Ognjan said. "These are things that are foreign to the body and are not supposed to be injected into the body in any way shape or form. They're meant to sterilize the environment."

Dr. Abir agreed, noting she was concerned when she heard the president inquire on national television about the possibility of humans using disinfectants to fight COVID-19.

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during his coronavirus press briefing on Thursday.  “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

Dr. Abir said the comments concerned her and warrant clarification and warnings from health officials.

"I don’t think that he intended to put this dangerous message out there," Dr. Abir said. But, she stressed: "He is the president and people listen to him. The last thing we want is people to say, 'Hey, I’m going to try this.' "

She warned: "Don’t do it."

"I want to take you back to when you were kids. The reason why (moms) hid cleaning materials is they worried you might drink it and die. A lot of these chemicals, they're toxic," Dr. Abir warned. " I think there needs to be a very aggressive campaign against misinformation like that."

Meanwhile, she urges parents to lock up their household cleaners, not only for the toddlers, but teenagers who may engage in risky behavior.

"In the interest of public safety and public health," Dr. Abir warned, "put away the disinfectants. You don’t want tragedies on your hands."

Contact Tresa Baldas: tbaldas@freepress.com.

Read or Share this story: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/04/24/fda-lysol-warnings-trumps-treatment-ideas-coronavirus-covid-19/3020022001/


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