[Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine: side effect profile of important therapeutic drugs]

Hautarzt. 1991 Mar;42(3):140-6.
[Article in German]


Precise knowledge of the undesirable effects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine allows better exploitation of their therapeutic effects. Retinopathy can be avoided by observing a maximum daily dosage of 3.5-4 mg/kg ideal body weight for chloroquine and 6-6.5 mg/kg for hydroxychloroquine. In this way, both can be used for long-term therapy. The pharmacokinetics of chloroquine (storage in deep compartments with long plasma half-life) means that it can cumulate, especially with higher dosages and in the presence of renal or hepatic insufficiency. A high plasma concentration reinforces the side-effects without reinforcing the therapeutic effects. Besides subjective symptoms (e.g. anorexia, diarrhoea, nausea), the following undesirable reactions are significant. On the skin exanthema, hyperpigmentation and photodynamic reactions can develop. The hair can become white in blonde and red-haired men. In the eye, chloroquine deposits in the cornea and disturbances of accommodation can occur, besides retinopathy. Neuromyopathy and central nervous system disturbances (e.g. psychosis) are rare, as is impairment of auditory function or blood cells. During pregnancy there is a risk of potential fetal damage (hearing loss, abortion). An acute overdose is extremely dangerous: the lethal dose is 1 g for children and 4 g for adults. As death occurs rapidly, chloroquine has to be stored where it is absolutely inaccessible to children.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chloroquine / administration & dosage
  • Chloroquine / adverse effects*
  • Chloroquine / pharmacokinetics
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / administration & dosage
  • Hydroxychloroquine / adverse effects*
  • Hydroxychloroquine / pharmacokinetics
  • Retinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Chloroquine