Cholesterol-lowering effect of hydroxychloroquine in patients with rheumatic disease: reversal of deleterious effects of steroids on lipids

Am J Med. 1990 Sep;89(3):322-6. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(90)90345-e.


Purpose: The effects of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) on serum levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and high- (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) were studied in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus.

Patients and methods: A total of 155 women were divided into the following treatment groups: Group A: patients taking HCQ and no steroids (n = 58); Group B: patients taking steroids and no HCQ (n = 35); Group C: patients receiving both HCQ and steroids (n = 18); and Group D: patients receiving neither HCQ nor steroids (n = 44).

Results: HCQ therapy had a high statistical association with low serum levels of cholesterol (181 mg/dL; p = 0.0006), triglycerides (106 mg/dL; p = 0.0459), and LDL (101 mg/dL; p = 0.0004), irrespective of concomitant steroid administration. The HCQ-treated group (A) had lower cholesterol (181 mg/dL; p = 0.0039) and LDL (101 mg/dL; p = 0.007) levels than those receiving neither HCQ nor steroids (205 mg/dL) and 128 mg/dL) (Group D). No HDL differences were observed.

Conclusion: The effects of HCQ do not appear to be due to changes in diet or weight, and the drug was well tolerated. Although the mechanism of cholesterol lowering by HCQ is not known, this drug deserves further investigation for its lipid-lowering properties.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine / therapeutic use*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Triglycerides
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Cholesterol