Generic Name: hydroxychloroquine, Oral tablet

Plaquenil,Quineprox

All Brands

  • Plaquenil
  • Quineprox
SECTION 1 of 4

Highlights for hydroxychloroquine

Oral tablet
1

Hydroxychloroquine is an oral drug used to treat malaria, lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

2

The most common side effects include headache, dizziness, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting.

3

This drug can be extremely dangerous to children. Accidentally swallowing just 4 tablets has been fatal in some children. Keep it out of reach of children in a child-resistant bottle.

4

Using this drug for a long time increases your risk of eye damage, including changes to your vision. Some vision changes get better after stopping the drug. Others may be permanent. You should have regular eyes exams while taking this drug.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Child danger

Accidentally swallowing just 4 tablets has been fatal in some children. Keep this drug in a child-resistant bottle out of reach of children.

May worsen skin conditions

Tell your doctor if you have skin conditions, such as psoriasis or porphyria. This medication may make these conditions worse.

Drug Features

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription drug. It’s available as an oral tablet. It’s also available in a generic version. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if the generic will work for you.

This drug may be used as part of a combination therapy. That means you may need to take it with other drugs.

Why It's Used

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and acute attacks and prevention of malaria.

How It Works

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug. It isn’t known how it works to treat lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis.

More Details

How It Works

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug. It isn’t known how it works to treat lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis. It treats malaria by killing the parasites that cause the disease.

It’s believed that it also affects how your immune system works, which may be a benefit in lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

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hydroxychloroquine Side Effects

Oral tablet

Most Common Side Effects

The most common side effects that occur with hydroxychloroquine include:

  • headache

  • dizziness

  • diarrhea

  • stomach cramps

  • vomiting

Mild side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if they’re more severe or don’t go away.

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • blurred vision or other vision changes

  • ringing in your ears or hearing loss

  • sore throat

  • unusual bleeding or bruising

  • black-blue skin color

  • muscle weakness

  • hair loss or hair that becomes lighter

  • abnormal mood changes

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Hydroxychloroquine does not cause drowsiness.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
SECTION 3 of 4

hydroxychloroquine May Interact with Other Medications

Oral tablet

Hydroxychloroquine may interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. That’s why your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. If you’re curious about how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Note: You can reduce your chances of drug interactions by having all of your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy. That way, a pharmacist can check for possible drug interactions.

Alcohol Interaction

Alcohol abuse can damage your liver, which can affect how hydroxychloroquine works in your body. Avoid alcohol while taking this medication.

Medications That Might Interact with This Drug

Stomach disorder drug
  • cimetidine

Cimetidine may increase the levels of hydroxychloroquine in your body and increase your risk of side effects.

Blood pressure drugs
  • beta-blockers

Hydroxychloroquine may increase the levels of beta-blockers in your body and cause your blood pressure to drop too low.

Heart drug
  • digoxin

Hydroxychloroquine may increase the levels of digoxin in your body. The increase of digoxin may cause side effects.

Magnesium

Oral magnesium may decrease the effect of hydroxychloroquine in your body. Don’t take these medications within 2–4 hours of each other.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.

People with skin problems

This drug may cause the skin conditions psoriasis and porphyria to become worse.

People with liver problems or alcohol misuse

Liver problems or a history of alcohol misuse can lower the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine.

Pregnant women

Hydroxychloroquine isn’t assigned a pregnancy category. However, it should be avoided in pregnancy. Some studies show that the medication can be passed through the mother’s bloodstream to the baby.

Speak with your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. This drug should only be used during pregnancy if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Women who are nursing

Small amounts of hydroxychloroquine pass through breast milk, but it’s not known what affect this may have on your baby if you breastfeed while taking it.

You and your doctor should decide whether you’ll take this medication or breastfeed.

For Seniors

This drug is processed by the kidneys. Older adults with reduced kidney function may not be able to process this drug well, which can increase the risk of side effects, including vision damage. Older adults may require more frequent eye exams while taking this drug to monitor for signs of vision damage.

For Children

This drug can be dangerous to children. Accidentally swallowing even 4 tablets can lead to death in a small child. Keep this drug in a child-resistant bottle out of reach of children.

Children shouldn’t use this drug for long periods. Children taking this medication for a long period of time may experience permanent damage to their vision and other side effects.

Allergies

Though rare, this drug may cause allergic symptoms, including hives, swelling, and breathing difficulty.

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How to Take hydroxychloroquine (Dosage)

Oral tablet

All possible dosages and forms may not be included here. Your dose, form, and how often you take it will depend on:

  • your age
  • the condition being treated
  • how severe your condition is
  • other medical conditions you have
  • how you react to the first dose

What Are You Taking This Medication For?

Malaria
Form: Oral Tablet
Strength: 200 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • acute attack:
    • 800 mg as an initial dose then 400 mg within 6–8 hours on the first day.
    • On the second day, the dose is 400 mg taken once per day for 2 more days.
  • prevention:
    • 400 mg once per week taken on the same day each week.
    • It has to be taken for at least 2 weeks to be fully effective.
    • If you don’t have 2 weeks before exposure to malaria, you may take two 400-mg doses 6 hours apart.
    • Continue using this medication during exposure and for 8 weeks after.
Child Dosage (ages 0-17 years)
  • acute attack:
    • Dosage is based on body weight.
    • The initial dose is 13 mg/kg (maximum dose: 800 mg).
    • Additional doses of 6.5 mg/kg (maximum dose: 400 mg) should be given at the following times:
      • 6 hours after first dose
      • 24 hours after first dose
      • 48 hours after first dose
  • prevention:
    • The dosage is based on body weight.
    • 6.5 mg/kg (maximum dose: 400 mg) should be given on the same day each week starting 2 weeks before possible exposure to malaria.
    • If your child isn’t able to take the drug before exposure, give two doses of 13 mg/kg (maximum dose: 800 mg) spaced 6 hours apart the first time.
    • After that, return to normal dosing, which is 6.5 mg/kg once per week on the same day each week.
    • Your child should continue to use this medication during exposure and for 8 weeks after.

Lupus Erythematosus
Form: Oral Tablet
Strength: 200 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • starting dose:
    • 400 mg taken once or twice per day.
    • Your doctor will decide what dose you take and how long you use the starting dose.
  • maintenance dose:
    • 200–400 mg per day
Child Dosage (ages 0-17 years)

Dosage for people younger than 18 years hasn’t been established.

Rheumatoid arthritis
Form: Oral Tablet
Strength: 200 mg
Adult Dosage (ages 18 years and older)
  • starting dose:
    • 400–600 mg per day for 5–10 days.
    • Your dose may be increased based on how well the medication is working for you.
  • maintenance dose:
    • 4–12 weeks after your starting dose, your doctor may lower your dose to 200–400 mg per day.
    • You may not see the best effect of this medication for several months.
    • If the medication isn’t working within 6 months, your doctor may decide to take you off it.
Child Dosage (ages 0-17 years)

Dosage for people younger than 18 years hasn’t been established.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Hydroxychloroquine comes with risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

For Malaria Prevention

Start this medication 1–2 weeks before traveling to a country where malaria is present. Take it while you’re there, and continue to take it for 8 more weeks after you’ve left the area. Taking your medication as directed by your doctor will give you the best chance of not getting malaria.

For Treating Lupus Erythematosus

Take your medication as directed by your doctor, even when you’re feeling well. This will give you the best chance of treating lupus and avoiding problems with your skin, joints, and other organs. It will also improve your quality of life.

For Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis

Take your medication as directed by your doctor, even when you’re feeling well. This will help reduce swelling, pain, and stiffness in your joints and improve your quality of life.

What to Do If You Miss a Dose

If you miss a dose, take the missed dose as soon as you can. However, if it’s almost time for the next scheduled dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule.

Don’t take a double dose to make up for the missed one. You risk more serious side effects and toxicity.

How Can I Tell if the Drug is Working?

You may be able to tell if this drug is working for rheumatoid arthritis if you experience reduced joint inflammation and if you’re able to move better within 6 months of starting the medication.

You may be able to tell if the drug is working for lupus erythematosus if you experience less joint swelling, less pain, fewer lupus-related rashes, and a better ability to move around.

For malaria, you may be able to tell if the drug is working if your fever goes away, you have less diarrhea, and less vomiting.

Is This a Long-Term or Short-Term Drug?

This is a short-term medication for treating malaria, but it may be used long term in treating lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Take this drug at the right time for best effects

If you take this drug at times other than the ones prescribed, the level of the drug in your body could increase or decrease. If it increases, you could have more side effects. If it decreases, the drug might lose its effectiveness.

For treating malaria: Take this medication once weekly on the same day each week.

For treating lupus and rheumatoid arthritis: Take this medication at the same times every day for the best effect.

Store this medication in temperatures from 68–86°F (20–30°C)

Keep the drug away from light and high temperature.

Note: Keep your medications away from areas where they could get wet, such as bathrooms. Store them away from moisture and damp locations.

Travel

When traveling with your medication:

  • Always carry it with you or in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t worry about airport X-ray machines. They can’t hurt this medication.
  • You may need to show your pharmacy’s preprinted label to identify the medication. Keep the original prescription-labeled box with you when traveling.

Clinical Monitoring

Your doctor will perform examinations to check your health and make sure that you aren’t experiencing a side effect from your medication. They include:

  • eye exams. Your doctor may give you an eye exam when you start hydroxychloroquine and every 3 months while you’re taking it.
  • blood tests
  • reflex tests. Your doctor may test your knee and ankle reflexes and check you for muscle weakness if you’re on this medication long term.

Hidden Costs

Beyond the cost of this drug, you may need to pay for additional eye exams and blood tests.

Insurance

Many insurance companies require a prior authorization before they approve the prescription and pay for hydroxychloroquine.

What does the pill look like?

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Are There Any Alternatives?

There are many drugs and combinations that can treat your condition. Some may be more suitable for you than others. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.


Show Sources

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on May 11, 2015

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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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