The role of antimalarial agents in the treatment of SLE and lupus nephritis

Nat Rev Nephrol. 2011 Oct 18;7(12):718-29. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2011.150.


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a multisystem autoimmune disease that affects various organs. Lupus nephritis is one of the most common, and most important, serious manifestations of SLE. Antimalarial agents are part of the immunomodulatory regimen used to treat patients with SLE; however, their role in the treatment of patients with lupus nephritis in particular is less well recognized, especially by nephrologists. Not all antimalarial agents have been used in the treatment of lupus; this Review will focus on studies using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. In addition, this Review will briefly describe the history of antimalarial drug use in patients with SLE, the theorized mechanisms of action of the agents chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, their efficacy in patients with SLE and those with lupus nephritis, their use in pregnancy, and potential adverse effects. The Review will also cover the latest recommendations regarding monitoring for hydroxychloroquine-associated or chloroquine-associated retinopathy. Overall, antimalarial drugs have numerous beneficial effects in patients with SLE and lupus nephritis, and have a good safety profile.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Lupus Nephritis / drug therapy*


  • Antimalarials