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NZ Formulary

Hydroxychloroquine (for rheumatoid arthritis)


What does it do?

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Before you start

  • Tell your doctor if you have heart, kidney, blood, muscle or hearing problems, vision or eye problems, or have diabetes, psoriasis, or G6PD deficiency.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.

How should you take it?

Take hydroxychloroquine regularly as directed. Take it with food and a glass of water.

What if you forget a dose?

If it is nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose at the usual time. Otherwise, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Do not take two doses at the same time.

Can you take other medicines?

Tell your pharmacist or doctor about all medicines or treatments that you may be taking, including vitamins, herbal products or recreational drugs.

What side effects might you notice?

Side EffectsRecommended action

Reduced number of blood cells that fight infections or help your blood to clot - symptoms include: fever, chills, sore throat or generally feeling unwell, or easy or unusual bruising or bleeding

Changes in vision

Hearing loss, ringing in the ears

Numbness or tingling of the fingers or toes

Muscle weakness

Tell your doctor immediately

Skin rash, itching

Low blood sugar: symptoms may include sweating, trembling, feeling anxious or irritable

Stomach upset

Tell your doctor

If you notice any other effects, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

Other information:

  • Hydroxychloroquine may affect your eyes. You will need an eye test in your first year of treatment, and another one after 5 years (unless your doctor decides you need one sooner). After 5 years of treatment you will need to have an eye test every year. Wear sunglasses when in bright sunlight.
  • Protect yourself from too much sunlight while being treated with hydroxychloroquine. Always cover up and apply a thick layer of broad spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30) when outside. Do not use sunbeds.

This leaflet contains important, but not all, information about this medicine.

Prepared by the MyMedicines Committee at Christchurch Hospital, Te Whatu Ora - Waitaha, New Zealand. March 2023

For more general information about this sheet and its contents, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

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About My Medicines

My Medicines Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) contain important, but not all, information about the medicines they describe.

For more information about the sheets, see: What does a My Medicines sheet cover?

My Medicines is developed by a team at Te Whatu Ora – Waitaha. Our team is made up of doctors, pharmacists, and a non-medical person to help us keep to plain language. We also discuss our information with specialist health professionals or groups when needed