|Type of medicine||Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD)|
|Used for||Rheumatoid arthritis
Systemic and discoid lupus erythematosus
Skin conditions caused or aggravated by sunlight
|Also called||Hydroxychloroquine sulphate
Autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis (inflammation of the joints) and lupus erythematosus (an inflammatory condition also called lupus), are caused by the body's immune system attacking itself by mistake. This leads to damage and inflammation of the affected tissues and organs.
Certain medicines, such as hydroxychloroquine, can suppress this immune reaction and therefore help slow down the progress of the disease, although it will not cure it.
Before taking hydroxychloroquine
Before taking hydroxychloroquine make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have liver or kidney problems.
- If you have any problems with your eyesight which are not corrected by wearing glasses.
- If you have any brain or neurological disorders (for example, epilepsy).
- If you suffer from severe stomach or gut problems.
- If you have glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency (a rare enzyme disorder).
- If you have porphyria (a rare blood disorder).
- If you suffer from psoriasis (a skin disorder).
- If you suffer from myasthenia gravis (a condition causing tired and weak muscles).
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine. This is particularly important if you know you are allergic to an antimalarial medicine called quinine.
- If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal or complementary medicines.
How to take hydroxychloroquine
- Before beginning treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet.
- Take hydroxychloroquine exactly as directed by your doctor.
- Swallow hydroxychloroquine tablets whole (not crushed or chewed), with food or a glass of milk.
- Try to take hydroxychloroquine at the same time(s) each day to avoid missing any doses.
- If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Keep your regular appointments with your doctor so that your progress can be monitored.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with hydroxychloroquine.
- Do not take indigestion remedies at the same time as hydroxychloroquine. If you need to take an indigestion remedy, leave at least four hours before or after your dose of hydroxychloroquine.
- Your doctor may advise you to have regular eye tests if you take hydroxychloroquine over a long period of time, as hydroxychloroquine can affect your eyesight.
- If you have been prescribed hydroxychloroquine for skin problems caused or aggravated by sunlight, only take your dose during periods of high exposure to light.
- You may have to take hydroxychloroquine for several weeks before you notice any improvement to your condition. It may take 2-6 months before you feel the full benefit of this treatment.
- Even if you start to feel better, keep taking this medicine until your doctor tells you to stop. Stopping treatment may cause your condition to worsen again.
- If you have been taking hydroxychloroquine for several months and you do not feel that it is helping you, discuss this with your doctor.
Can hydroxychloroquine cause problems
Along with their useful effects, all medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Possible side-effects||What can I do if I experience this|
|Feeling or being sick||Eat little and often. Stick to simple foods. If the sickness continues, or if it is severe, speak with your doctor|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, or if it is severe, speak with your doctor|
|Eye problems (for example, blurred vision or sensitivity to light)||Let your doctor know about this as soon as possible|
|Other possible side-effects: diarrhoea, stomach pain, skin rash or itching||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
Important: if you experience difficulty breathing or swelling of the mouth or face, speak with your doctor immediately or go to your local accident and emergency department without delay.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store hydroxychloroquine
- Keep all medicines out of the sight and reach of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 59th Edition (March 2010) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Plaquenil®; Manufacturer's PIL, Plaquenil®, sanofi-aventis, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated May 2008.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Hui Teoh|
|Last Checked: 18/11/2010||Document ID: 616 Version: 23||© EMIS|
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.