In this session, we will be discussing the consumer medication information for hydroxychloroquine, trade name PlaquenilTM.

What it’s for & How to take

Hydroxychloroquine has two completely different uses.

First, this medication is used to treat and prevent malaria infections caused by mosquito bites. This medication does not work for all strains of malaria, and it is important to verify with the United States Center for Disease Control what the travel recommendations are for specific locations in the world. Realistically, there are other, newer medications used for malaria prevention and treatment and hydroxychloroquine is usually not seen as first line therapy.

Second, this medication is used, usually in combination with other medications, to treat specific types of auto-immune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Hydroxychloroquine may help decrease the skin problems associated with lupus and decrease swelling and pain with arthritis.

Hydroxychloroquine is sometimes used to treat other conditions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist if you are prescribed this medication to treat something that is not listed here.

Hydroxychloroquine is usually taken with food to help prevent upset stomach. If you are prescribed this medication to either treat or prevent malaria, your pharmacist and doctor will describe exactly how you are to take it. Follow the directions on the label and ask your pharmacist if you have any questions.

When treating an auto-immune disorder such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, hydroxychloroquine is usually taken either 1 or 2 times daily. Your dosage and length of treatment are based on your medical condition and response to therapy. It may take up to 2 months before you feel any relief of symptoms. If your symptoms do not improve or worsen, call your doctor.

If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of your next dose, skip it and continue with your normal dose time. Do not take a double dose to make up the missed dose.

Most Important Warnings

  • Because this medication has two distinct classifications, it is important that the prescriber is familiar with the complete prescribing information before use.

Other Warnings & Cautions

  • Hydroxychloroquine rarely causes serious vision problems, especially if you take this medication for an extended period of time. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any significant sensitivity to light or irritating vision changes such as flashes or streaks of light or blacked-out areas.
  • Children are much more sensitive to the side effects of hydroxychloroquine. This medication is only used for short term malaria treatment in children and is not recommended for long-term use because of the potential toxicity.
  • Hydroxychloroquine is used during pregnancy only when the benefits outweigh the risks. It is not recommended to treat an auto-immune disorder with this medication while pregnant. If you are pregnant and need to take this medication, discuss the risks with your doctor first.
  • Hydroxychloroquine passes into the breast milk. Discuss this with your doctor before you breastfeed if you need to take this medication.
  • This medication may make you dizzy, drowsy, or blur your vision. Do not drive or do any activity that requires focus and attention until you are sure you can do them safely. Avoid alcoholic beverages while taking hydroxychloroquine.

Interactions & Side Effects

  • Tell your pharmacist or doctor all your medication allergies so they may determine if hydroxychloroquine is safe for you to take.
  • Avoid dangerous drug interactions. Tell your pharmacist or doctor all the other medication you are taking, including over the counter supplements, even if you don’t take them very often.
  • Ask your doctor if this medication is safe to take with your current health conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any vision problems, blood disorders, liver or kidney disease, history of alcohol dependency, any skin disease or any other existing medical condition.
  • While taking hydroxychloroquine, you may feel some dizziness, stomach cramping or headache. If these or any other unwanted side effects persist, contact your doctor or pharmacist to talk about it with them.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any muscle aches and pains, irregular heartbeat, hair loss, changes in mood such as anxiety or depression, or a persistent ringing in the ears.

If you have any questions about what you have heard, contact your pharmacist or doctor. This session does not include all the potential interactions or side effects that this medication may cause. Ask your pharmacist how your medication should be stored and how you should dispose of it when you are done taking it. Do not share your medication with anyone, ever. Remember, this is not meant to replace your counseling session with your pharmacist. In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Updated 7/20