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Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine)


What is Plaquenil?

  • Plaquenil is an anti-parasitic drug used to treat malaria. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory drug to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It is a generic drug manufactured widely.
  • Plaquenil also exerts an effect on the immune system, reducing cellular activation and overall system inflammation. Cellular activation has been linked to faster HIV disease progression and poorer CD4 cell recovery after initiating antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. Inflammation has been linked to worsening HIV disease, and to non-HIV-related conditions that include cardiovascular disease, liver disease and certain cancers.
  • Currently, Plaquenil is in early-state testing to determine its potency at reducing HIV-specific cellular activation and to potentially delay the need for a person to begin ARV therapy..

What is already known about Plaquenil?
  • Plaquenil has been used as an anti-inflammatory drug for many years, more recently, it was tested and found to reduce HIV-specific cellular activation.
  • A Phase II study is currently underway comparing 48 weeks of Plaquenil against a placebo in HIV-positive people who have not yet started ARV therapy. The key research questions are whether Plaquenil is safe to use in these individuals and whether and to what degree it is able to suppress activation of CD8 cells.
  • Like other drugs, Plaquenil might interact with other medications, including those used to treat HIV. It is important that your personal physician and/or the research nurse or study investigator be aware of all drugs you are taking, including those you buy without a prescription.

What is known about side effects?
  • Long-term use of Plaquenil can increase the risk of irreversible damage to the retina of the eye. People who are taking Plaquenil are recommended to have regular eye exams and to report any changes in eyesight to their doctors right away.
  • Plaquenil can cause stomach upset, including nausea, diarrhea and cramping.
  • Plaquenil can also cause skin and hair changes, including rash, sun sensitivity, hair loss and bleaching of the hair. People with psoriasis who begin taking plaquenil can see their psoriasis worsen.
  • Plaquenil can cause muscle weakness and nerve problems.
  • Plaquenil can cause or worsen seizures.

Who should not take Plaquenil?
  •  People allergic to drugs that are similar to Plaquenil—a class of drugs called “quinalones”—should not take Aralen. Allergic reactions to Aralen can be life-threatening.
  • Pregnant women should not use Plaquenil, unless they have acute malaria, as the drug can be harmful to a developing fetus.
  • Plaquenil can pass into the breast milk and may have a harmful effect on an infant. Women taking Plaquenil are encouraged not to breast feed while taking Plaquenil. Also, to prevent transmission of the virus to uninfected babies, it is recommended that HIV-positive mothers not breast feed.

Where can I learn more about clinical trials of Plaquenil?
  • If you would like to find out if you are eligible for any clinical trials that include Plaquenil, visit, a site run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The site has information about all HIV-related clinical studies in the United States. For more info, you can call their toll-free number at 1-800-HIV-0440 (1-800-448-0440) or email

Last Revised: February 10, 2011

This content is written by the POZ and AIDSmeds editorial team. For more information, please visit our "About Us" page.

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