(HealthDay News) — Hydroxychloroquine appears to be associated with lower risk for hyperlipidemia in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research.

Rishi J. Desai, PhD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues compared the risk of incident hyperlipidemia in early rheumatoid arthritis after initiation of various disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) using insurance claims data from 2001 to 2012 for 17,145 patients. 

Four groups were identified based on DMARD initiation: tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) inhibitors ± nonbiologic (nb) DMARDs; methotrexate (MTX) ± nonhydroxychloroquine nbDMARDs; hydroxychloroquine ± non-MTX nbDMARDs; and other nbDMARDs only.

The researchers found that 364 of the patients developed incident hyperlipidemia, with hazard ratios (HRs) of 1.41 for TNF-alpha inhibitors (95% CI, 0.99-2.00), 0.81 for hydroxychloroquine (95% CI, 0.63-1.04) and 1.33 for other nbDMARDs (95% CI, 0.95-1.84) compared with MTX in the full cohort. 

For the propensity score-matched cohort, the corresponding HRs were 1.18 (95 % CI, 0.80-1.73), 0.75 (95% CI, 0.5-0.98) and 1.41 (95% CI, 1.01-1.98). 

In subgroup analysis there were significant reductions from baseline in LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels for hydroxychloroquine vs. MTX.

“Use of hydroxychloroquine may be associated with a lower risk of hyperlipidemia among early [rheumatoid arthritis] patients,” the researchers wrote.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical technology industries.


  1. Desai RJ et al. Arthritis Care Res. 2015;doi:10.1002/acr.22483.