Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) has been making headlines for its potential to treat COVID-19. While it is still unclear whether this medication is actually useful against coronavirus (recent findings have mostly been disappointing), this drug has a proven track record of helping patients with autoimmune conditions including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Some doctors have also been using hydroxychloroquine to treat select patients with osteoarthritis (OA), even though it is not officially approved for this purpose. A new study suggests that this “off-label” use may not be wise.
OA is a “wear-and-tear” form of arthritis and not an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis, yet some patients with hand OA seem to have an inflammatory component to their condition. While it seemed plausible that hydroxychloroquine — which has anti-inflammatory properties — might help these patients, recent research has not found that to be the case.
The latest study on the subject was presented at the European E-Congress of Rheumatology 2020, held virtually by the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). Researchers from Germany randomly assigned patients with erosive hand OA to take 200 to 400 mg of hydroxychloroquine each day or a placebo for 52 weeks. Everyone in the study also took an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), which is standard therapy for hand OA.
After the study ended, there were no significant differences between the two groups. “[Hydroxychloroquine] was no more effective than [placebo] for changes in pain, function, and radiographic scores in the 52-week period,” the authors concluded. “Thus, our data failed to show that [hydroxychloroquine] is effective in patients with inflammatory, erosive hand OA.”
These findings come on the heels of a 2018 British study and a 2017 Dutch study, both of which reached similar conclusions.
Found This Study Interesting? Get Involved
If you are diagnosed with arthritis or another musculoskeletal condition, we encourage you to participate in future studies by joining CreakyJoints’ patient research registry, ArthritisPower. ArthritisPower is the first-ever patient-led, patient-centered research registry for joint, bone, and inflammatory skin conditions. Learn more and sign up here.
Kedor C, et al. Hydroxychloroquine in Patients With Inflammatory and Erosive Osteoarthritis of the Hands: Results of a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled, Multi-Centre, Investigator-Initiated Trial (OA Treat). Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. Volume 79, Supplement 1. 2020.
Gever J. Another Trial Dumps on HCQ in Osteoarthritis of the Hand. MedPage Today. June 5, 2020.