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What is Hydroxychloroquine? What is it used for?

Updated Wednesday 29 July 2020 7:27
What is Hydroxychloroquine? What is it used for?
Hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, have been under study as possible treatments for COVID-19 (the illness caused by the new coronavirus). However, the FDA has just revoked its emergency use authorization for these two drugs. This is because the drugs may not be effective in treating COVID-19, and their risks may outweigh their potential benefits for this use. Do not use these medications to treat COVID-19 unless your doctor recommends that you do so.

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  • Hydroxychloroquine oral tablet is available as a brand-name drug and a generic drug. Brand name: Plaquenil.
  • Hydroxychloroquine comes only as a tablet you take by mouth.
  • Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat malaria, lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis.


Child danger warning: Accidentally swallowing just a few tablets has been fatal in some children. Keep this drug in a child-resistant bottle out of reach of children.

  • Worsened skin conditions warning: Tell your doctor if you have skin conditions, such as psoriasis or porphyria. This medication may make these conditions worse.
  • Eye damage: This medication can damage your eyes, leading to vision problems that can be permanent. This damage is more likely when the drug is used in high doses.
  • Heart damage: This medication can cause heart disease. Although uncommon, some cases have been fatal.


Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription drug. It comes as an oral tablet.

Hydroxychloroquine is available as the brand-name drug Plaquenil. It’s also available in a generic version. Generic drugs usually cost less than the brand-name version. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name drug.

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


Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also used to prevent and treat malaria.


Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug. It treats malaria by killing the parasites that cause the disease.

It isn’t fully understood how this drug works to treat lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis. However, it’s believed that this drug affects how your immune system works, which may be a benefit in lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.


Hydroxychloroquine oral tablet doesn’t cause drowsiness, but it can cause other side effects.

More common side effects

The more common side effects that can 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

Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • blurred vision or other vision changes, which may be permanent in some cases
  • heart disease, including heart failure and issues with your heart rhythm; some cases have been fatal
  • ringing in your ears or hearing loss
  • angioedema (rapid swelling of your skin)
  • hives
  • mild or severe bronchospasm
  • sore throat
  • severe hypoglycemia
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • blue-black skin color
  • muscle weakness
  • hair loss or changes in hair color
  • abnormal mood changes
  • mental health effects, including suicidal thoughts
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