Safety of hydroxychloroquine in healthcare workers for COVID-19 prophylaxis

Indian J Med Res. 2021;153(1 & 2):219-226. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_2294_20.


Background & objectives: Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), reported to inhibit severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) replication in in vitro studies, has been recommended for prophylaxis of COVID-19 in healthcare workers (HCWs). The objective of this study was to assess short-term adverse events (AEs) of HCQ in HCWs.

Methods: This cross-sectional study among consenting HCWs taking prophylaxis and working in hospitals with COVID-19 patients used online forms to collect details of HCWs, comorbidities, prophylactic drugs used and AEs after the first dose of HCQ. Verification of dose and AEs was done by personal contact. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was done to determine the effect of age, gender and dose of HCQ on AE.

Results: Of the 1303 HCWs included, 98.4 per cent (n=1282) took HCQ and 66 per cent (n=861) took 800 mg as first day's dose. Among the 19.9 per cent (n=259) reporting AEs, 1.5 per cent (n=20) took treatment for AE, none were hospitalized and three discontinued HCQ. Gastrointestinal AEs were the most common (172, 13.2%), with less in older [odds ratio (OR) 0.56, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.35-0.89], with more in females (OR 2.46, 95% CI 1.78-3.38) and in those taking a total dose of 800 mg on day one compared to a lower dose. Hypoglycaemia (1.1%, n=14), cardiovascular events (0.7%, n=9) and other AEs were minimal.

Interpretation & conclusions: HCQ prophylaxis first dose was well tolerated among HCWs as evidenced by a low discontinuation. For adverse effects, a small number required treatment, and none required hospitalization. The study had limitations of convenience sampling and lack of laboratory and electrocardiography confirmation of AEs.

Keywords: Adverse events; COVID-19; chloroquine; coronavirus; healthcare workers; hydroxychloroquine; prophylaxis; rational.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxychloroquine* / adverse effects
  • Hydroxychloroquine* / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis


  • Hydroxychloroquine