Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)

Hydroxychloroquine is

Licensed for the treatment of malaria, and is one of several antimalarial drugs that have anti-inflammatory effects useful in other diseases. Hydroxychloroquine is particularly effective for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE). By reducing inflammation, hydroxychloroquine can decrease pain, swelling and stiffness of joints, and improve or clear some rashes.

Conditions best treated with subject name

Skin conditions treated with hydroxychloroquine include:

  • Various forms of lupus erythematosus
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

What is involved in taking subject

  • Your doctor will advise you about this. Usually you will be started on a full dose (for example 400 mg or 2 tablets of hydroxychloroquine) and later your doctor may reduce it (for example, to 200 mg or one tablet of hydroxychloroquine). Some patients need to take hydroxychloroquine only two or three times per week when their disease is well controlled.
  • You should take hydroxychloroquine with or after food.
  • Hydroxychloroquine does not work immediately. It may be 12 weeks or longer before you notice any benefit.

Side effects of subject treatment

  • These are uncommon. However, a few people develop a skin rash, indigestion, diarrhoea, headache, blurred vision, darkening of the skin, or bleaching of the hair.
  • It can aggravate pre-existing psoriasis.
  • Very rarely if taken for a long time hydroxychloroquine may damage the retina (the back of the eye). To prevent this from occurring doses are keep low.

Monitoring for the side effects of subject treatment
  • Before starting on hydroxychloroquine your doctor may wish to take a blood test to check that your liver and kidneys are working normally, but you will not need any regular blood tests. Your doctor should also enquire about any visual problems, and check your vision before you start the medication, and thereafter once a year.

If you are pregnant

You should not normally take hydroxychloroquine during pregnancy as it may harm the unborn child. If you are planning a family, or wish to breast feed, you should seek advice from your doctor.

Alcohol and medications while on subject

  • There is no particular reason for you to avoid alcohol while taking hydroxychloroquine.
  • Most other drugs can be taken safely with hydroxychloroquine. However, if you start any new drugs, you should tell the doctor that you are already taking hydroxychloroquine. Indigestion remedies, including some sold over the counter, can stop hydroxychloroquine being absorbed. There are important interactions with amiodarone and digoxin taken for heart irregularities and with drugs used for epilepsy. So discuss other medications with your doctor or pharmacist before taking them.