Hydroxychloroquine Side Effects Linked To Maculopathy Risks: Study

A new study warns about the potential vision side effects of hydroxychloroquine, a drug once touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19, indicating that ocular toxicity may leave users with maculopathy vision loss.

In findings published this month in the Journal of Postgraduate Medical Institute (JPMI), researchers from Pakistan found increased rates of Bulls eye maculopathy, pre-maculopathy, and blurred vision among those taking the drug.

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug approved by the FDA to treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and malaria. The FDA issued an emergency authorization for doctors to use the drug on some coronavirus patients after a French study showed promising results. However, the study was later found to have problems with research standards and the emergency authorization was rescinded in June.

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In this latest study, researchers conducted a cross-sectional study at Fatima Memorial Hospital using data from May 2019 to July 2019 on 155 patients who took hydroxychloroquine for more than five years. The mean age of the patients was 40.7 and ranged from age 15 to age 70. Just under 88% of the patients were female, and most took the drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis, followed by systemic lupus erythematosus.

According to the findings, 1.9% of patients developed Bulls eye maculopathy, 15.5% developed pre-maculopathy, and 18.16% reported blurring of vision. The researchers noted that duration of hydroxychloroquine use appeared to be “significantly associated” with the development of maculopathy.

“There is higher prevalence of retinal toxicity due to HCQ therapy in Pakistani population,” the researchers concluded. “There is a positive correlation between duration of HCQ therapy and retinal toxicity.”

The FDA first granted the emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine on March 28, 2020, based on the “science and data available at the time” to combat the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in the absence of a treatment or vaccine. The FDA now indicates it rescinded the authorization based on “up to date science and data.”

Later, as the findings from new research was reported, the World Health Organization halted a clinical trial early due to findings suggesting hydroxychloroquine may increase the risk of death among COVID-19 patients. It later resumed that study.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA had to issue a warning to the public not to use hydroxychloroquine without the oversight of a health care professional in a hospital setting. The health advisory came after President Donald Trump publicly endorsed the drug, leading some citizens to try it and becoming severely ill, resulting in at least one death.


  • RebeccaApril 13, 2022 at 1:53 am

    I was looking to see if they're suing this company for making this I have lost a lot of eyesight from taking this for rheumatoid arthritis Now everywhere I try to drive everything was blurry

  • RobinOctober 7, 2021 at 1:39 am

    I experienced retinal toxicity after 0ver 15 yr of being on HCQ for sojogrens syndrome.

  • DawnJuly 21, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    This medication needs to be pulled off the shelf.. I was taking it and went into anaphylactic shock and was on a ventilator for 4 days.. Had to do rehab to walk and still have damage from this medication..

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