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Guidelines on prescribing and monitoring antimalarials in rheumatic diseases: a systematic review

1, 2, 3, 4


  1. Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, London, ON, Canada.
  2. Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, London, ON, Canada.
  3. Western University, London, ON, Canada.
  4. Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, and Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, St Joseph’s Health Care, London, ON, Canada.

2021 Vol.39, N°2
PI 0407, PF 0412

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PMID: 33124575 [PubMed]

Received: 22/12/2019
Accepted : 20/04/2020
In Press: 07/10/2020
Published: 09/04/2021


The purpose of this systematic review was to identify existing guidelines for antimalarial prescribing and monitoring, specifically for hydroxychloroquine, and how these guidelines compare and have evolved over time.
A literature search was conducted using Embase and Medline to identify guidelines published from 1946-2018. MeSH terms were used and alternative spelling and related words were entered as keywords to broaden results.
243 results were reviewed to obtain 11 recommendations. Ophthalmology sources included the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Royal College of Ophthalmologists and Canadian editorials. The American College of Rheumatology and Canadian Rheumatology Association consensus statements summarised rheumatology recommendations. Recently, American and British guidelines changed from suggesting hydroxychloroquine doses ≤6.5 mg/kg/day to ≤5 mg/kg/day. American guidelines recommended baseline visual field (VF) testing and annual screening after five years. Visual field (VF) testing evolved from the Amsler grid to current recommendations of 10-2 automated VF and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT). The 2012 Canadian recommendations suggested initial VF testing every two years, with SD-OCT after 10 years. Older British guidelines advocated for baseline and annual assessment with Amsler grids during rheumatology clinic visits. The 2018 British guidelines supported baseline and annual screening after five years with 10-2 VF, SD-OCT and fundus autofluorescence.
The newest recommendations are heterogeneous suggesting lower hydroxychloroquine dosing. Retinal toxicity is irreversible and the risk increases over time. Annual screening after five years with automated VF and SD-OCT may be warranted to detect early changes and discontinue therapy if necessary.

Rheumatology Article