Pharmacist’s Corner: What You Need to Know About Hydroxychloroquine

By Marina Entin, Rph, BS

Hydroxychloroquine is in a class of drugs called antimalarials. It is used primarily in the prevention and treatment of malaria. It works by killing the organisms that cause malaria. Hydroxychloroquine may work in rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematous by decreasing the activity of the immune system.

According to the most recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) publications on hydroxychloroquine therapy alone, and in combination with Azithromycin in treating patients with COVID-19, it failed in shortening a person’s hospital stay, lessening the length or severity of the illness, and as an effective drug to reduce the number of deaths. This most recent clinical data was published in NEJM on July 23, 2020.

The safety concerns published by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), from their July 2020 Safety review, listed multiple serious and life-threatening drug interactions that included heart rhythm problems, blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries, and liver problems that may involve liver failure.

Based on published data, a current recommendation would be that hydroxychloroquine should ONLY be taken under the direction of a doctor in a clinical study. Do not buy this medication online without a prescription. For patients and consumers who decide to take this drug because the benefits outweigh the risks, if you experience irregular heartbeats, dizziness, or fainting while taking hydroxychloroquine, call 911 for emergency medical treatment. If you have other side effects, be sure to tell your prescribing healthcare provider and to report your negative experiences to FDA MedWatch, the federally funded program responsible for monitoring drug product safety issues in the U.S.

FDA’s MedWatch can be reached by calling 1-800-332-1088, or by visiting their website to file an online report.

Marina is a licensed Clinical Pharmacist with over 20 years of clinical and regulatory experience, including MTM (medication therapy management) and chronic disease management. She helps Safest Drug with community outreach, educational webinar presentation development, planning, promotion, and clinical content editing. To learn more about Marina, please visit our Team page.