Researchers have found a link between hydroxychloroquine and a decreased risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Hydroxychloroquine has been in use for approximately 50 years. It was first developed as an anti-malaria drug, and then as treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other rheumatic diseases.
In type-2 diabetes, the formerly healthy body either stops producing enough insulin or no longer uses insulin effectively. Type-2 diabetes is associated with obesity and for years was also referred to as "adult-onset" diabetes until recent years when the numbers of children with type-2 diabetes have begun to soar along with the growing levels of childhood obesity. Of the nearly 21 million Americans that have diabetes, most have type-2 diabetes.
Many people with rheumatoid arthritis also have risk factors for diabetes, such as being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle, but the actual number of people with RA who develop diabetes is lower than expected. The researchers examined a database of almost 5,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis to determine if there is an association between hydroxychloroquine and diabetes. Just over 1,800 people included in the database had taken hydroxychloroquine to treat their rheumatoid arthritis. During the 21.5 year period covered by the database, 54 people taking hydroxychloroquine and 171 who had never taken the drug developed diabetes. Those people taking hydroxychloroquine were 38 percent less likely to develop type-2 diabetes. Those who took the drug for longer than four years had a 77 percent reduced risk of diabetes, possibly meaning that the longer a person took the drug, the less likely they were to develop diabetes.
Scientists caution however, that more research needs to be performed to find the mechanisms for how hydroxychloroquine might affect the development of diabetes. But future development of this drug as a treatment for diabetes could be a promising lower cost treatment option, since this drug is already available in a generic form.