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Published on 30 October 2008

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Diabetes hope for malaria drug

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The onset of diabetes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis may be prevented by the use of an antimalarial medication, new Geisinger research shows.

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which is used to treat malaria, has also been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.

It has now been associated with a 53% reduction in the development of new cases of diabetes. It is not known exactly how HCQ works, but it is thought to improve glucose tolerance.

Dr Androniki Bili, lead study investigator and Geisinger rheumatologist said: “Given the relative safety and low cost of this generic drug, HCQ may be useful in preventing diabetes in other high risk groups.

“We should revisit HCQ in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis because, in addition to its disease-modifying properties, it might prevent the development of diabetes in this high risk group.”

People with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk of diabetes due to more sedentary lifestyles, chronic inflammation and use of steroid medications that can cause weight gain.

Dr Bili presented the study’s findings at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco.

Copyright PA Business 2008

American College of Rheumatology



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