Written by Rachel Nall | Published on October 21, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 21, 2013

What Is Plaquenil?

Brand Name: Plaquenil
Generic Name: Hydroxychloroquine

Plaquenil is used to slow the progression of HIV, though doctors typically prescribe the medication to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers are currently studying how effective Plaquenil is in treating HIV.

Read the FDA description of Plaquenil.

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What Does Plaquenil Do?

Plaquenil has multiple effects on the HIV virus. Plaquenil reduces the cellular activation in the body that allows HIV cells to reproduce more rapidly. The medication also helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

Children younger than 6 should not take Plaquenil.

This information is a summary. Before starting this medication, discuss questions with your healthcare provider and make sure you understand dosage instructions.

What Should I Tell My Doctor Before Starting Plaquenil?

Tell your doctor before taking Plaquenil if you: 

  • have diabetes
  • have liver or kidney disease
  • have a nervous system disorder
  • have retinopathy of the eye that causes damage to the blood vessels in the eye, blurred vision, and potential vision loss
  • have a known hypersensitivity to a class of medications known as 4-aminoquinoline compounds, of which Plaquenil is a member. This includes quinine.

What Medications May Interact with Plaquenil?

Always tell your physician about any prescription medications or herbal remedies you are taking.

Medications that can adversely interact with Plaquenil include:

  • agalsidase
  • aminoglycoside antibiotics (for example, arbekacin)
  • amiodarone
  • antacids
  • antidiabetic medications
  • antiepileptic medications
  • antimalarial medications, which increases risk for seizures
  • arrhythmogenic medications
  • cyclosporin (Ciclosporin)
  • cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • Digoxin
  • insulin
  • mefloquine
  • moxifloxacin
  • Neostigmine
  • Praziquantel
  • Pyridostigmine
  • rabies vaccine

Possible Side Effects of Plaquenil

The following are severe and emergent side effects of these medications. Contact your medical provider immediately if you experience:

  • heart problems, which include rapid heartbeat, extremity swelling or chest pains
  • hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, which includes weakness, confusion, shaking and dizziness
  • liver problems, such as vomiting, skin yellowing, stomach pain or nausea
  • psychosis, including delusions
  • severe breathing difficulties
  • suicidal thoughts

The following side effects may occur, but do not usually represent an emergency. Discuss with your doctor or healthcare professional if they continue or are bothersome.

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • increased sun sensitivity—always wear protective clothing and a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • rash
  • stomach upset, cramping, diarrhea or stomach pain—take Plaquenil with meals or a glass of milk to reduce discomfort.
  • Unexplained tiredness

This list may not describe all possible side effects. Call your doctor or healthcare provider for advice about side effects. You may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Plaquenil and Eyes

When used long-term, Plaquenil can damage a person’s vision. Because these damaging effects cannot be reversed, patients taking the medication should undergo regular eye examinations.

Examples of visual changes that may require a physician’s visit include:

  • blurred vision
  • seeing light flashes
  • changes in eye color

Plaquenil and Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant, could be pregnant, or are breastfeeding should not take Plaquenil. Plaquenil can cause harm to a fetus because it crosses the placenta. While an adult’s body can break down the medication, a baby’s cannot. Also, the HIV virus and Plaquenil can be transmitted via breast milk. Notify your physician if you have been breastfeeding. 

Where Should I Keep Plaquenil?

Plaquenil should be stored at room temperature, ranging from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius or anywhere from 59 to 86 Fahrenheit.

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

FDA WARNING: Prescribers should be familiar with complete prescribing information before use.
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