hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is hydroxychloroquine, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

Hydroxychloroquine is classified as an anti-malarial drug. It is similar to chloroquine (Aralen) and is useful in treating several forms of malaria as well as lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. Its mechanism of action is unknown. Malarial parasites invade human red blood cells. Hydroxychloroquine may prevent malarial parasites from breaking down (metabolizing) hemoglobin in human red blood cells. Hydroxychloroquine is effective against the malarial parasites Plasmodium vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale, and susceptible strains of P. falciparum. Hydroxychloroquine prevents inflammation caused by lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. The FDA approved hydroxychloroquine in April, 1955.

What brand names are available for hydroxychloroquine?

Plaquenil

Is hydroxychloroquine available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes

Do I need a prescription for hydroxychloroquine?

Yes

What are the side effects of hydroxychloroquine?

Side effects include irritability, headache, weakness, hair lightening or loss, stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, muscle pain, rash and itching. Rarely, hydroxychloroquine can affect the bone marrow leading to reduced white blood cells (leukopenia) or platelets (thrombocytopenia) and abnormal red blood cells (anemia). Rare but potentially serious eye toxicity can occur. This toxicity affects a part of the eye called the retina and can lead to color blindness and even loss of vision. An ophthalmologist (eye specialist) often can detect changes in the retina that suggest toxicity before serious damage occurs. Therefore, regular eye examinations, even when there are no symptoms, are mandatory. Patients who are genetically deficient in a certain enzyme, called G6PD, can develop a severe anemia resulting from the rupture of red blood cells. This enzyme deficiency is more common in persons of African descent and can be evaluated by blood testing. Hydroxychloroquine may worsen psoriasis.

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