Generic Name: hydroxychloroquine
Trade Name: Plaquenil®
How is Plaquenil used? Plaquenil is used to for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), some symptoms of lupus, childhood arthritis (JIA), and other autoimmune diseases. It is also used for the prevention or treatment of malaria caused by mosquito bites.
What is the mechanism of action? Plaquenil is an immunomodulatory drug (DMARD) that works by suppressing the immune system to prevent it from damaging tissues and joints. The immune system helps protect the body from harmful substances such as infectious agents and bacteria. In people with RA, however, the immune system attacks and destroys normal tissue—namely, the tissue around the joints. This leads to inflammation and damage to the cartilage and bone and causes pain. Specifically, Plaquenil blocks the action of a certain enzyme to decrease the proliferation of rapidly dividing white blood cells.
How is Plaquenil given (administered)? Plaquenil is taken orally. Dosage and frequency to be determined by your doctor.
How are patients monitored? Patients will usually have scheduled meetings with their healthcare provider while they are being treated with Plaquenil. Blood and urine tests will be ordered periodically to check for unwanted effects. An eye exam will be given upon taking this drug, and every 6 to 12 months thereafter.
What are the most common side effects of treatment with Plaquenil?
- Abdominal cramps
- Blurred vision
- Increased sun sensitivity
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
This is not a complete list of side effects. Some patients may experience other side effects that are not listed here. Patients may wish to discuss with their physician the other less common side effects of this drug, some of which may be serious.
Some side effects may require medical attention. Other side effects do not require medical attention and may go away during treatment. Patients should check with their physician about any side effects that continue or are bothersome.
What are some of the less common but potentially serious side effects of Plaquenil?
- Eye problems
Are there any special precautions patients should be aware of before starting treatment?
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- Patients should inform their doctor if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Plaquenil will harm your unborn baby.
- Patients should inform their doctor if they are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if Plaquenil passes into breast milk.
- Patients should limit exposure to sunlight and wear sunscreen when taking Plaquenil.
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines and all herbal supplements as other medicines may affect each other and cause serious side effects.
When should patients notify their physician?
Contact your healthcare professional immediately in case of any of the following:
- You have symptoms of eye problems. These include: blurred or worsening vision, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, unusual bleeding or bruising, blue or black skin discoloration, muscle weakness, bleaching or loss of hair, mood or mental changes.
- You become pregnant.
What is a package insert?
A package insert is required by the FDA and contains a summary of the essential scientific information needed for the safe and effective use of the drug for healthcare providers and consumers. A package insert typically includes information regarding specific indications, administration schedules, dosing, side effects, contraindications, results from some clinical trials, chemical structure, pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the specific drug. By carefully reviewing the package insert, you will get the most complete and current information about how to safely use this drug. If you do not have the package insert for the drug you are using, your pharmacist or physician may be able to provide you with a copy.
Important Limitations of Use
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