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Last Updated on March 16, 2024

Chloroquine is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria, a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted through mosquito bites. Despite being a prescription drug in many countries, chloroquine is available over-the-counter (OTC) in some regions. However, it is essential to note that self-medication with chloroquine can be dangerous, as improper use can lead to adverse effects and contribute to the development of drug resistance.

In the United Kingdom, chloroquine is not available over-the-counter, and it is only dispensed with a prescription. The drug has been associated with various side effects, including vision changes, skin rash, and severe complications such as heart and liver problems. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a healthcare provider before taking the drug. Moreover, individuals traveling to high-risk malaria areas should also take preventative measures such as using insect repellents and mosquito nets to reduce their risk of infection.

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What is chloroquine?

Chloroquine is the standard of care for the prevention and treatment of malaria. Malaria is the most common tropical disease. The malaria parasite (Plasmodium) is transmitted by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. There are three different forms of malaria, each caused by a different pathogen. Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria, is the most dangerous because it is resistant to chloroquine in many areas. Therefore, the use of chloroquine only makes sense in areas where Pl. Falciparum or where the pathogen is not resistant to chloroquine. Chloroquine does not prevent infection, nor does it kill the parasite, but it does prevent the parasite from reproducing long enough for our immune system to destroy it. Therefore, it is important to take the medicine exactly as directed. If the medication is stopped too soon, the bacteria can suddenly become strong and the disease breaks out. Chloroquine is also used to treat rheumatism (rheumatoid arthritis) and diseases in which the immune system attacks the body (autoimmune diseases).

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Side effects

During long-term treatment with chloroquine in high doses: visual disorders, muscle weakness, muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, tinnitus, hearing disorders, increased excitability, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, skin itching, skin rash, skin and mucous membrane hyperpigmentation, hair loss and graying, blood pressure decrease, myocardial damage with ECG changes.

Special indications

Chloroquine adversely affects the ability to drive and to perform work requiring increased attention and quick mental reaction. Chloroquine use in liver diseases and chronic alcoholism requires special caution; chloroquine may cause exacerbation of psoriasis and porphyria. It is recommended that chloroquine be discontinued during breast-feeding. In some cases chloroquine can be administered to pregnant women for treatment and prevention of malaria, but it should be taken into account that chloroquine may have toxic effect on fetus.

Drug interactions

Concomitant use of chloroquine with phenylbutazone, gold drugs, penicillamine, cytostatics, levamisole is contraindicated; increased caution is required in combination with cimetidine, quinine and other antimalarials, GCS, kaolin, antacids, metronidazole, MAO inhibitors, foxglove drugs and in immunization against typhoid vaccine for oral use.