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BMJ. 2007 July 21; 335(7611): 121.
PMCID: PMC1925163
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Hydroxychloroquine may help prevent diabetes

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial and a safe and effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. It may also help prevent diabetes, according to a large cohort study of nearly 5000 adults. All had rheumatoid arthritis, and patients who took hydroxychloroquine were significantly less likely to develop diabetes than those who didn't, during a follow-up of more than 20 years. After adjusting for obvious confounding factors such as body mass index and use of steroids, the hazard ratio for incident diabetes in patients who had ever taken the drug was 0.62 (95% CI 0.42 to 0.92). The longer the duration of treatment, the lower the riskrisk.

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Researchers have known for years about the antidiabetic properties of hydroxychloroqine, but these authors say this is the first study to suggest a prophylactic effect in people without diabetes. In patients taking the drug for more than four years, the risk of diabetes was reduced by 77% (adjusted relative risk 0.23, 0.11 to 0.50).

The participants in this cohort reported their own diagnoses, and the authors were unable to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Even so, they think their findings are strong enough to proceed to prospective trials of hydrochloroquine in high risk patients with and without rheumatoid arthritis.

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