An announcement by US President Donald Trump that anti-malaria drug chloroquine could be used to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has sent Lagosians into panic buying of the drug.
The announcement came during Trump’s press conference on Thursday, March 19, 2020, and a few hours later, drug stores across Lagos were inundated by enquiries about the drug.
“It’s shown very encouraging — very, very encouraging early results. And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately,” Trump said on Thursday.
Pulse visited six drug stores in the Festac, Ago, Okota and Isolo suburbs of Lagos and collaborated reports from other sources across other areas of the city.
Three local drug stores in Festac told Pulse that they had sold out all brands of chloroquine while pharmaceutical stores in Ago, Okota and Isolo confirmed the increased enquiries.
One of the sales girls at Prime Day Pharmacy in Ago confirmed that a lot of people came looking for the drug on Thursday evening although the store didn’t have any to sell.
Also confirming the increased enquiries about chloroquine, the proprietor of Health Ark in Okota said the drugs have been scarce in the market for a while and the increase in demand will drive up prices.
“A lot of people are asking for it but I don’t have it, it’s very scarce,” he said. “Prices are sure going to go up now.”
It was the same story at Ensacom Pharmacy also in Okota and several other drug stores in Isolo.
Pulse sources who also visited pharmaceutical stores in Ogudu, Ojota and Ikotun confirmed an increase in demand for the drug.
Some of the drug stores also confirmed that the increase in demand had come before Trump’s announcement.
There have been speculations in Nigeria that the anti-malaria drug can be used to treat COVID-19.
Dr Olurotimi Agboola who is a Family Physician for Lagos State University Teaching Hospitals told BBC Pidgin in February that although chloroquine is not an anti-viral agent, it has the power to stop the disease from spreading in the body.
It was these speculations that led the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) through it’s Kwara branch chairman Mr Aliu Bakau to warn Nigerians not to believe the reports and not use the drug with the belief that it can cure or prevent coronavirus.
The PSN is yet to react to Trump’s claim which has been followed by disagreement from America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It is already being used in China and South Korea according to Buzzfeednews but despite encouraging results from initial trials when chloroquine is used to treat COVID-19, the FDA has still not officially approved it.
Nigerians on Twitter weren’t left out of the frenzy as chloroquine became the number one trending topic.
Nigeria has had 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced four new cases on Thursday.
One of the cases has however tested negative a week after it was confirmed.
To curb the spread of the virus, the Federal Government has ordered the closure of all schools in Nigeria while the Lagos State Government has also banned religious gatherings of more than 50 people.