Objective: To examine the relationship between antimalarial therapy and total cholesterol in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with or without steroid therapy.
Methods: Retrospective study for the University of Toronto Lupus Clinic database between 1976 and 1997. The effects of antimalarials on random total cholesterol levels were assessed in the following situations: patients not receiving steroids (part I) that either initiated or discontinued antimalarials; patients receiving steroids (part II) that were either on a stable dose or initiating antimalarials; and patients initiating steroids with or without antimalarials (part III). Paired t test, Fisher's exact test, and 2 way analysis of variance were used when appropriate.
Results: Initiation of antimalarials reduced the baseline total cholesterol by 4.1 % at 3 months in 53 patients (p = 0.020) and by 0.6% at 6 months in 30 patients (p = NS), while the cessation of antimalarials increased the total cholesterol by 3.6% at 3 months in 38 patients (p = NS) and 5.4% at 6 months in 22 patients (p = NS). In 181 patients taking steroids and antimalarials, the mean total cholesterol was 11% less than for 201 patients receiving a comparable dose of steroids alone (p = 0.0023). Initiation of antimalarials on a stable dose of steroids reduced the total cholesterol by 11.3% at 3 months in 29 patients (p = 0.0002) and 9.4% at 6 months in 20 patients (p = 0.004). For patients initiating steroids, the percentage increase in cholesterol was lower in those taking antimalarials compared to patients without antimalarial therapy (p = 0.0149).
Conclusion: Antimalarials lower total cholesterol in patients receiving steroids and may minimize steroid induced hypercholesterolemia.