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Medications > Chloroquine (Aralen) > Chloroquine (Aralen) – Detailed Information


What is Chloroquine?

Chloroquine (Aralen®) is a Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug (DMARDs).  Chloroquine was initially uses to treat parasitic infections such as malaria.  Since the 1950’s they have also been recognized to be beneficial for the treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, and other types of arthritis and rheumatic disease.  Occasionally doctors use Chloroquine for diseases other than arthritis.

How does Chloroquine work?

The mechanism by which Chloroquine works for arthritis is unknown.

Why am I taking Chloroquine?

Your doctor has prescribed this medicine to help with the following:

  • Reduce the pain and swelling (inflammation) in your joints.
  • Improve your day to day function.
  • Improve the symptoms of Lupus such as rashes, mouth sores, and joint swelling.

What is the usual dose of Chloroquine?

Chloroquine is available in 250 mg tablets.  The dose is based on your lean body weight with the standard dose ranging from one-half (125 mg) to one tablet (250 mg) per day.  The dose should be no more than 3 mg/kg/day of lean body weight.

How often do I take Chloroquine?

Chloroquine is taken ONCE a DAY.

Who should NOT take Chloroquine?

  • Patients who have had a previous reaction to Chloroquine.
  • Patients who have had eye problems as a result of Chloroquine

When will I start to feel the effects of Chloroquine?

This medication does not work right away.  It will take about 6 to 12 weeks before you start feeling better.  The maximum effect can take up to 6 months.

What Medications are safe with Chloroquine?

Virtually all medications can be safely used with Chloroquine.  As an example, some of the medications your doctor may prescribe safely include: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Prednisone, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), Other DMARDs (i.e. Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate, and Gold), and Biologics (i.e. Etanercept, Infliximab, Anakinra).

What are the side-effects of Chloroquine?

Chloroquine is a very well tolerated medication and most patients have no side-effects at all.

MORE COMMON side-effects include:

  • Mild nausea, loss of appetite, and occasional stomach cramps.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Mild blurry vision at first.

RARE side-effects include:

  • Skin rashes including a blue/black discolouration of the skin and worsening of psoriasis.   Heightened sensitivity to the sun.
  • Headaches or dizziness.
  • Nervousness, restlessness, and difficulty sleeping.
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) – rare.
  • Eyes: Rarely, Chloroquine can cause damage to the back of the eye (retina).  The most common symptoms are difficulty reading or seeing (words, letters, or parts of objects may be missing) or blurred vision.  The retinal toxicity seems to be related to the daily dose of medication.  Fortunately, this is very rare.

Why do I need to see an Ophthalmologist (Eye Doctor) when I am taking Chloroquine?

As mentioned above, Chloroquine can cause damage to the back of the eye (retina).  Early eye toxicity is not usually a serious problem.  However, once serious damage occurs, it is permanent.  Therefore, appropriate monitoring of the eye by a medical specialist familiar with the side-effects of Chloroquine is essential.  The eye examination includes regular tests such as vision and eye pressure.  It also includes tests which are not part of a regular eye check-up such as testing for colour vision and testing your visual fields.  Your doctor will usually ask you to see an ophthalmologist every 6-24 months.

How can I help to minimize the side-effects of Chloroquine?

  • Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Take your medication with food to help reduce stomach upset.

Do I need to have regular blood tests while taking Chloroquine?

NO, you do not need to have regular blood tests while taking Chloroquine.  However, your doctor may order periodic blood tests to follow the activity of your arthritis.

How do I stop the Chloroquine?

You do not need to wean yourself off Chloroquine.  It can simply be stopped.  However, your disease may “flare” after you stop the medicine.

What should I do if I miss a dose of Chloroquine?

  • If you forget to take your Chloroquine at the usual time but remember later on the same day, take the missed dose immediately.
  • If you forgot to take yesterday’s dose, skip yesterday’s dose and take your usual dose for today.

Is Chloroquine safe in pregnancy?

  • It is generally advisable to avoid all medications during pregnancy and while you are trying to become pregnant.  However, Chloroquine is believed to be one of the safer medications and has been used safely and successfully to treat arthritis during pregnancy.
  • Please notify your doctor if you become pregnant while taking Chloroquine.