Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is used as the first-line systemic treatment for severe, widespread or refractory cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) in many countries. However HCQ is not an approved drug in Japan. For the establishment of HCQ therapy as the alternative treatment for CLE in Japan, we conducted a pilot study in Japanese patients with refractory CLE by administrating HCQ, and evaluated the improvements in the skin lesions using the Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus Disease Area and Severity Index (CLASI). We administrated HCQ to seven CLE cases, including four systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) cases. The skin lesions of the four cases improved dramatically, and their mean CLASI activity index decreased significantly following HCQ treatment. Arthralgia improved in all three cases with arthralgia and general malaise also improved in two of the three cases who had complained. In three cases who discontinued HCQ therapy after 16 weeks of treatment, their skin lesions and general malaise worsened soon, and after the resumption of HCQ therapy these symptoms improved again. The mean serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels also decreased significantly at the end of this study. Our results suggest that HCQ might be effective for Japanese SLE skin lesions and CLE, and support the studies which reported that HCQ prevented clinical flare ups of SLE. An additional effect to improve lipid profiles was also observed in our Japanese cases. It is necessary to confirm that these effects are reproducible when Japanese lupus erythematosus cases are given HCQ.
© 2011 Japanese Dermatological Association.