Research shows hydroxychloroquine has substantial survival benefit among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus in the general population
May 20, 2020 (Vancouver, BC) – An Arthritis Research Canada study has revealed substantial survival benefit associated with the current use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), and increased mortality with recent discontinuation among individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in the general population.
Hydroxychloroquine is an often prescribed medication for lupus patients given the number of benefits it offers, including a reduction in disease severity and its ability to lower the risk of lupus nephritis and several other comorbidities such as hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, venous thromboembolism, and pregnancy complications. While it has shown significant survival benefit among patients who receive specialized care, this benefit has not been previously demonstrated with the general population until now.
“The study supports the additional benefit of hydroxychloroquine in preventing premature death in patients with lupus, regardless of what type of lupus patients may have. Staying on hydroxychloroquine, will save your life,” said Dr. J. Antonio Avina-Zubieta, senior research scientist at Arthritis Research Canada who conducted the study.
The research team used anonymous administrative health data which includes information on demographics, vital statistics, healthcare visits, and prescription history to study all patients. Users of hydroxychloroquine were designated into four categories based on the timeframe between their last prescription date (i.e. end of medication supply) and index rate (i.e. death rate). These categories include current users (<30 days), recent users (30-365 days), remote users (>365 days), or never used.
“Hydroxychloroquine is a life-saving medication for lupus patients that should never be stopped if tolerated. Taking hydroxychloroquine as prescribed by a physician can help avoid premature death for lupus patients. One of the highlights of our study, is the findings apply to the average patient with lupus. We know that often patients believe when it comes to medications, less is better – this study showed that this is not the case for hydroxychloroquine. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, this medication was suggested as a potential therapy for COVID-19 patients which resulted in a potential shortage. Lupus patients need to make sure they have their supply secured by their pharmacy,” Dr. Avina-Zubieta continued.
In the long term, researchers hope future studies can further explore the potential link between hydroxychloroquine discontinuation and increased mortality as well as its impact on other systemic lupus erythematosus related outcomes.
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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Led by world-renowned rheumatologist, Dr. John Esdaile, Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific team of over 100 are creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Within British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.
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