Hydroxychloroquine: 10% stop from side effects


10% Stop from Side Effects

How often do patients stop hydroxychloroquine treatment because of side effects?

Hydroxychloroquine (also known by the name Plaquenil and generics) is an oral anti-inflammatory medication frequently used in the treatment of a variety of autoimmune diseases. For autoimmune hair loss, hydroxychloroquine is used in the treatment of lichen planopilaris, frontal fibrosing alopecia, discoid lupus, and pseudopelade of Brocq.

Side effects include irritation of the liver, pigment changes on the skin, reduced blood counts and retinopathy. The eye side effects are among the more worrisome side effects.

It’s helpful when prescribing a medication to have a sense of how common a side effect might be an how commonly a patient will discontinue a given medication.

Tetu and colleagues performed a retrospective study between January 2013 and June 2014 of patients receiving hydroxychloroquine for a variety of skin issues (not limited to hair). The study included 102 patients (93 of whom were women, with a median age of 44.5; range: 22-90 years). At least one adverse event was reported for 55 patients (ie 54%). 11 patients (10.75%) discontinued hydroxychloroquine due to a side effect that was thought to be directly attributable to the use of hydroxychloroquine.


It’s nice to have this kind of information when prescribing medications. Although the study did not solely focus on the use of hydroxychloroquine for hair loss, it’s reasonable that a similar proportion of hair loss patients would be expected to stop their hydroxychloroquine due to a side effect. Other oral options include doxycycline and tetracyclines, mycophenolate, cyclosporine, methotrexate and other anti-lymphocytic agents.


Tétu P, et al. Ann Dermatol Venereol. 2018.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

Share This