Use of Hydroxychloroquine Is Associated With Improved Lipid Profile in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

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We examined the association between hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and plasma lipid and glucose levels in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cohort.


This is a retrospective cohort analysis of 1261 RA patients comparing fasting lipid profiles and plasma glucose between patients who were and were not taking HCQ. We divided patients into 3 groups based on HCQ exposure during follow-up: those who had never taken HCQ, those who took it intermittently, and those who took it continuously. We used multivariable models and propensity scoring to compensate for the effect of nonrandom treatment assignment.


We followed 1261 RA patients for a total of 4605 observations between 1996 and 2014. After adjusting for age, sex, ethnicity, other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), lipid-lowering medications, body mass index (BMI), and smoking, patients taking HCQ at baseline had significantly lower total cholesterol (TC) (P ≤ 0.001), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (P ≤ 0.001), triglycerides (P = 0.013), and lipid profile ratios TC/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (P ≤ 0.001) and LDL/HDL (P ≤ 0.001), as well as higher HDL (P ≤ 0.001).


In longitudinal analyses, after adjusting for confounders, patients who continuously took HCQ showed significantly lower TC, LDL, TC/HDL, and LDL/HDL and higher HDL (P ≤ 0.01). Fasting plasma glucose levels were not significantly associated with HCQ exposure.


Hydroxychloroquine use was associated with lower lipid levels but not with the plasma glucose in this RA cohort. These findings support the need for a randomized trial to establish the role of HCQ in cardiovascular disease prevention in RA patients.

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