Hydroxychloroquine Decreases the Risk of Death

Woman taking pills out of a pill box organizer

Research article shows that taking hydroxychloroquine decreases the risk of death by 83%:

Impact of Antimalarial Adherence on Mortality Among Patients With Newly Diagnosed Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: A Population-Based Cohort Study

Hoque MR, Aviña-Zubieta JA, De Vera MA, Qian Y, Esdaile JM, Xie H. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2022 Jul;74(7):1089-1097. doi: 10.1002/acr.24550. Epub 2022 Apr 6. PMID: 33411964.

Key takeaways for how Hydroxychloroquine decreases the risk of death

– Lupus patients who take their hydroxychloroquine regularly had an 83% lower risk of death compared to those who stopped taking it

– They had a 71% lower risk of death compared to those who did not take it regularly

– Lupus patients who miss doses of hydroxychloroquine should figure out strategies to help prevent missing doses

What we already know about how hydroxychloroquine decreases death

  • Close to 1 out of 2 lupus patients are poorly adherent with taking their medications regularly
  • Taking hydroxychloroquine regularly is part of “The Lupus Secrets
  • Hydroxychloroquine has many benefits while being relatively safe (as long as people get their yearly eye exams)
  • One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Michelle Petri at the Johns Hopkins Lupus Center: “Hydroxychloroquine is the only drug proven to prolong survival for lupus patients.”

Hydroxychloroquine is the only drug proven to prolong survival for lupus patients.

Dr. Michelle Petri, MD, Director, Lupus Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD

What this study adds to our knowledge about hydroxychloroquine and lupus deaths

It strengthens the importance of taking hydroxychloroquine regularly

How the study was done (in brief)

Location: British Columbia, Canada

          Patients: 3062 systemic lupus erythematosus patients followed between January 1997 and March 2015


  • A retrospective chart review study
  • Observational
  • No placebo group

What should be studied in the future about hydroxychloroquine and lupus

  • What causes of death, in particular, are lowered by taking hydroxychloroquine regularly
  • What is the optimal dose of hydroxychloroquine, or target hydroxychloroquine drug level, that lowers mortality best
  • What are the best strategies to help lupus patients not forget doses of medicines
  • Figure out how to make access to medications, like hydroxychloroquine, more easily accessible for all patients


What is your experience?

What do you think and recommend?

Do you have any advice for patients or healthcare providers?

Answer in the comments section

Recommended Posts


  1. I took Plaquenil and had my yearly exams for over ten years. The last eye exam showed it was starting to affect my eyes and I had to stop taking it. Hopefully the years I was able to take Plaquenil put me in a good place. I am a 32-year survivor.

    • Kathy: So sorry to hear that. A couple of thoughts… 1) quinacrine is now available again. It is a viable substitute for HCQ. Also, though HCQ is the only drug proven to prolong survival in SLE patients, I suspect that belimumab (Benlysta) could easily show the same thing after further watching. We already know from the 7 year and 13 year long term study results, it shows that it lowers organ damage in lupus patients and is well tolerated.

      Donald Thomas, MD

  2. I have been taking Plaquenil for 30 years. Last summer I had special tests run to assess the health of my eyes. Everything good. I also get regular yearly checks of my eyes. It is such an easy medicine to take. For me no side affects. It brings me comfort to know I am actively managing my SLE with this medicine and contributing to better outcomes and a healthier today and tomorrow for myself.

    • Thanks for sharing your story with others, Penelope.

      Dr T

  3. What is the death rate when combined with other diseases?Eg, Sjögren’s syndrome, fibromyalgia.

    • Lisa: that is such an important question, and I do not recall any studies sorting out how patients do who only have lupus and those who have overlap syndromes (such as Sjogren’s) or concomitant fibromyalgia. I’ll be on the lookout though, and if I see a study, I’ll report on it.

      Donald Thomas, MD

  4. Is that plaquinil or just any hydroxycloroquine?

  5. It didn’t sit will with me. Terrible headaches

  6. I have been on chloroquine since 2013 I am supposed to be taking it everyday but I reduced it to 3 times a week for the fear of it affecting my eyes. I would rather stay on chloroquine than switch to methotrexate as I have heard this drug can cause cancer. Would like some thoughts on this?

  7. Should a person with lupus take a probiotic pill?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *