Should I take chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine without a prescription?

No, you should not take prescription medication like chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine without a prescription. The FDA has approved the emergency use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for hospitalized patients with COVID-19 who can’t join the clinical trials that will help determine if these medications really work. But even if you think you have COVID-19, taking these medications without a prescription is dangerous.

Prescriptions are not one-size-fits-all. When a doctor prescribes a medication, they have made a decision that the potential benefits of the medication outweigh the risks of taking it. Both chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have several possible serious side-effects, including heart problems and death. So while it might make sense to prescribe these medications to a patient who is seriously ill with COVID-19, that decision can only be made by a doctor. 

What about the chloroquine sold as an additive to fish tanks to treat parasites in fish? That’s even more dangerous! The amount of chloroquine in the additives isn’t closely watched and there are other toxic ingredients in those cleaners, too. So no, you should not take take fish tank cleaner, at all.  

In fact, if you or someone you know has taken fish tank cleaner, or a prescription medication without a prescription, contact Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222.

Last updated April 6, 2020 at 5:00pm ET

Science review by ERS, JAB