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What is hydroxychloroquine and how does it work?

Hydroxychloroquine, a synthetic form of quinine, is a prescription drug that was developed decades ago to prevent and treat malaria. As an anti-malarial medication, it works by increasing the pH level of parasite cells, affecting biochemical reactions within the cells and preventing them from spreading. 

Hydroxychloroquine is also prescribed to patients suffering from certain autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It is believed that this drug inhibits certain immune responses, suppressing the immune system and improving symptoms.  

It is thought that as well as having anti-viral properties, hydroxychloroquine can help to calm the response of your immune system to infection and some research even suggests that it can actually help to prevent COVID-19. As hydroxychloroquine accumulates in the lung tissue, it can work locally at the site of coronavirus infection. Evidence suggests that it may help to prevent COVID-19, by stopping the coronavirus from invading your body’s cells. 

Interestingly, research is emerging (although this is yet to be published) which suggests that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective drug against the Omicron variant of COVID-19. This variant contains mutations that allow it to enter our cells more easily via endosomes (small bubbles that form when the cell membrane folds in on itself). As hydroxychloroquine accumulates in endosomes and makes them less acidic, it may well prevent the virus from entering our cells through this mechanism. 

How should I take Hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription-only drug and taking it without the expert guidance of a licensed doctor can be very dangerous. Make sure that you follow your physician’s directions carefully when taking hydroxychloroquine. Your doctor will decide on the most suitable dose and length of treatment for your individual needs. 

It is usually recommended to swallow hydroxychloroquine tablets whole, with either food or milk to prevent stomach upset. You should not crush, chew or split them in half. It can help you to take it at the same time every day so that you do not forget to take it.

If you also take antacids or kaolin, make sure that you take these at least 4 hours before or after you take hydroxychloroquine, as they can affect its absorption by the body.

Are there any side effects?

Along with its beneficial effects, hydroxychloroquine may also cause some unwanted and unpleasant effects. Many patients do not experience any noticeable side effects, however, in some patients, it can cause: nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, loss of appetite, headaches and dizziness. If you do experience any of these adverse effects, and they persist or worsen, then you should consult with one of our medical professionals for further advice. 

Rarely, hydroxychloroquine can cause more serious side effects. If you experience: a fast heartbeat, hair loss or color change, arm, leg or back pain, ringing in the ear or hearing loss, worsening of skin conditions (such as psoriasis), easy bleeding/bruising, shortness of breath or changes in mental health (such as anxiety, depression or hallucinations), you should seek medical advice immediately. 

Very rarely, hydroxychloroquine may cause serious, and sometimes permanent, eye problems or muscle damage, particularly with prolonged use. If you experience: vision changes (such as blurred vision or blacked-out areas of vision), muscle weakness or sensitivity to light, you should seek immediate medical attention.

While unlikely, signs of an allergic reaction to hydroxychloroquine include: rash, itching and swelling especially of the face, tongue and throat, severe dizziness or trouble breathing. If you experience any of these side effects, then you should seek urgent medical assistance.

What should I do if I forget to take a dose?

You should take your missed dose as soon as you remember and then continue with your usual schedule. If it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose. Never double up on your medication to make up for a missed dose. 

Does hydroxychloroquine interact with any other medications?

Medications that may interact with hydroxychloroquine include:

  • Digoxin
  • Diabetes medications, including repaglinide, chlorpropamide and glipizide
  • Amiodarone
  • Clarithromycin
  • Mefloquine
  • Phenytoin
  • Carbamazepine
  • Cyclosporine

Drug interactions can prevent your medication from working correctly or cause harmful complications. To minimize the risk of drug interactions you should tell your doctor about all medications that you are taking, including any supplemental or recreational drugs.

What happens if I drink alcohol when taking hydroxychloroquine?

There is no known interaction between hydroxychloroquine and alcohol.

Additional information
Weight 0.1 lbs
Dimensions 6 × 9 × 1 in

30 tablets