Japanese Data Show Use of Hydroxychloroquine is Not Associated with Hospitalized Infections
In Japan, new research finds that use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), also known by the brand name Plaquenil, is not associated with short-term risk of hospitalized infection (HI). HI refers to both hospitalizations that occur due to infections, as well as infections that occur during hospitalization.
To assess the link between HCQ use and HI, investigators analyzed records from a nationwide hospital-based claims database in Japan and compared rates of HI in people with lupus. Infection rates were compared between nearly 1,100 people with lupus treated with HCQ and an equal number of people with lupus who were not being treated with the drug.
The number of HI cases between the two groups was similar. Within the HCQ group, 49 people (4.5%) experienced HI, compared to 61 people (5.6%) in the non-HCQ group. Although slightly more people in the non-HCQ group had HI, the difference was not statistically significant. Older age and oral dosage of corticosteroid therapy, however, were found to be positively associated with HI.
The results are notable, since immunosuppressants and corticosteroids have been associated with an increased risk of HI, and previous studies have suggested that HCQ use significantly decreases infection risk. The researchers’ findings may differ from previous studies, because HI was defined very broadly, or because the study subjects’ characteristics differed from other study populations. Use of HCQ was not approved for lupus treatment in Japan until 2015. Further research is needed to understand the long-term safety and efficacy of HCQ.