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Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) belongs to a group of medicines called quinolines. Plaquenil is used to treat or prevent malaria, a disease caused by parasites that enter the body through the bite of a mosquito. Malaria is common in areas such as Africa, South America, and Southern Asia. This medicine is not effective against all strains of malaria. Plaquenil is also an antirheumatic medicine and is used to treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and discoid or systemic lupus erythematosus. Hydroxychloroquine belongs to a group of medicines known as antimalarials. It works by preventing or treating malaria, a red blood cell infection transmitted by the bite of a mosquito. However, this medicine is not used to treat severe or complicated malaria. Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus). It is also used to treat acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis. This medicine is available only with your doctor's prescription.
Take this medicine only as directed by your doctor. Do not take more of it, do not take it more often, and do not take it for a longer time than your doctor ordered. Swallow the tablet whole. Do not crush, break, or chew it. Take this medicine with meals or milk to lessen stomach upset, unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
For patients taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent malaria:
• Your doctor may want you to start taking this medicine 1 to 2 weeks before you travel to an area where there is a chance of getting malaria. This will help you to see how you react to the medicine.
• Also, you should keep taking this medicine while you are in the area and for 4 to 6 weeks after you leave the areaIf you are also taking kaolin or antacids, take them at least 4 hours before or after using hydroxychloroquine.
Before taking hydroxychloroquine,
• tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine (Aralen), primaquine, or any other drugs.
• tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription drugs you are taking, especially acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), digoxin (Lanoxin), iron-containing medications (including multivitamins), isoniazid (Nydrazid), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), niacin, rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), and vitamins and herbal products.
• tell your doctor if you have or have ever had liver disease, psoriasis, porphyria or other blood disorders, G-6-PD deficiency, dermatitis (skin inflammations), or if you drink large amounts of alcohol.
• tell your doctor if you have ever had vision changes while taking hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine (Aralen), or primaquine.
• tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. If you become pregnant while taking hydroxychloroquine, call your doctor.
Hydroxychloroquine may cause side effects.
Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
• stomach pain
• skin rash
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
• sensitivity to light
• blurred distance vision
• muscle weakness
• bleeding or bruising of the skin
• mood or mental changes
• irregular heartbeat
A very serious allergic reaction to this drug is rare. However, get medical help right away if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction, including: rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), dizziness, trouble breathing. This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.
What other information should I know?
If you are taking hydroxychloroquine for a long period of time, your doctor will recommend frequent eye exams. It is very important that you keep these appointments. Hydroxychloroquine can cause serious vision problems. If you experience any changes in vision, stop taking hydroxychloroquine and call your doctor immediately.
Is there a generic alternative for the medication?
Yes; Plaquenil is the brand and Hydroxychloroquine is the generic alternative.
What other medications can Plaquenil interact with?
Some products that may interact with this drug include: ampicillin, cimetidine, digoxin, penicillamine.