News Release

Patients with primary hand OA should not be prescribed hydroxychloroquine

New data suggest hydroxychloroquine ineffective in reducing pain, disability and joint stiffness of hand OA

Peer-Reviewed Publication

European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR)

Rome, Italy, 13 June 2015: The results of an interventional trial presented today at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2015) showed that use of the disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug hydroxychloroquine for 24 weeks did not diminish mild-moderate pain from primary hand osteoarthritis (OA). Furthermore, treatment did not improve overall physical, social and emotional wellbeing. These findings suggest that hydroxychloroquine should no longer be routinely prescribed for patients with this form of arthritis.

OA is the most common type of arthritis, causing significant joint pain and disability. Population data suggest symptomatic hand OA affects around 8% of people aged 60 or over, and 26% of women and 13% of men aged 70 or over.

Current pharmacological treatment options of hand OA are limited as they have been shown to only work for short periods and are not effective for all patients. In addition, many of these treatments have side-effects which restrict their use. Hydroxychloroquine has been used successfully in the treatment of mild rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases for many years, and was believed to be beneficial in hand OA as well.5

"The findings from our trial do not support the prescription of hydroxychloroquine for patients with mild-moderate pain from hand osteoarthritis, neither on a physical nor emotional level," said Mrs. Natalja M Basoski, lead researcher, of the Department of Rheumatology, Maasstad Ziekenhuis, Rotterdam, Netherlands. "However, further investigations will need to be performed to determine whether hydroxychloroquine relieves pain in other specific phenotypes of hand OA," she added.

Results showed that 24 weeks of treatment with hydroxychloroquine in symptomatic hand OA did not significantly reduce pain when compared to placebo. In addition, hydroxychloroquine showed no overall effect on pain, disability and joint stiffness, as measured by the Australian Canadian Hand Osteoarthritis Index (AUSCAN), and no overall change was observed in physical, social and emotional wellbeing scores, as measured by Arthritis Impact Measurement Scale 2 SF (AIMS2-SF) scales.

Two hundred and two patients aged 40 years or older with primary hand OA were recruited from rheumatology clinics from six different hospitals in the Rotterdam region, between July 2010 and December 2013. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either oral hydroxychloroquine 400mg once a day (n=100) or placebo (n=102) for 24 weeks. Paracetamol was used as rescue medication.

The primary outcome for this trial was a decrease of hand pain in the previous 24 hours, following 24 weeks of treatment, as rated on a visual analogue scale (VAS). Secondary outcomes included VAS pain ranked at 6 and 12 weeks, change in total score of the AUSCAN Index and the AIMS2-SF at the end of the study.


Abstract Number: OP0304


For further information on this study, or to request an interview with the study lead, please do not hesitate to contact the EULAR congress
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The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) is an umbrella organisation which represents scientific societies, health professional associations and organisations for people with rheumatic diseases throughout Europe.

EULAR aims to promote, stimulate and support the research, prevention, and treatment of rheumatic diseases and the rehabilitation of those it affects.

With 45 scientific member societies, 35 People with Arthritis and Rheumatism in Europe (PARE) organisations, 19 health professionals associations and 21 corporate members, EULAR highlights the importance of combating rheumatic diseases through both medical means and patient care.

EULAR 2015 is set to be the biggest rheumatology event in Europe with around 14,000 scientists, physicians, allied health professionals and related audiences in attendance from more than 120 countries. Over the course of the congress there will be some 300 oral and just under 2,000 poster abstract presentations, more than 150 sessions, 400 lectures, 40 poster tours and 350 invited speakers.

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