Hydroxychloroquine is a DMARD- a disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug. This means it affects the disease itself to reduce the effects of the immune system.
The immune system causes inflammation that protects the body from infections and injury. In certain diseases however, the immune system is over active and this can target healthy tissues such as joints. This results in pain, swelling and tenderness and eventually permanent damage.
Hydroxychloroquine works to suppress the over activity of the immune system and prevent the inflammation from occurring, reducing the long-term risk of permanent joint or organ damage.
Hydroxychloroquine is used for a number of different conditions, most commonly in types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Hydroxychloroquine is a tablet that is taken daily. It is prescribed based on your weight and is usually prescribed at doses of 200-400mg each day. It can be taken with or without food.
It can take up to 12 weeks for the medication to have its full effect. It is a long-term treatment as it prevents any long-term damage.
It is often taken along side another DMARD such as methotrexate.
Before starting to take it, your blood tests will be checked in clinic for your blood counts, liver and kidney tests. You will not require any blood monitoring whilst you are on this medication.
Before you start taking hydroxychloroquine you will need your vision checked, this is to get a baseline of your sight, as hydroxychloroquine can rarely cause vision changes. Annual eye checks should be carried out whilst you are on hydroxychloroquine.
An 8-week supply of tablets will be provided by the hospital at your rheumatology appointment, you will then receive a phone call from the rheumatology nurse specialists at 6-8 weeks to see how you are getting along. If you experience any side effects, these can be discussed with the nurses or your GP.
Side effects with hydroxychloroquine are not common. Below are some side effects that have been noted:
Interactions with other medications
Contraindications with other conditions
During pregnancy and breastfeeding
Versus Arthritis: http://www.versusarthritis.org