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Anti-malarial Drug may Help Reduce Risk of Diabetes in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients

Preliminary research has suggested that use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine may help reduce the risk of patients with rheumatoid arthritis developing diabetes .

Type 2 diabetes mellitus affects nearly 8 percent of US adults, and its prevalence has been increasing.

Antimalarials such as hydroxychloroquine, a long-standing safe and inexpensive treatment for an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, theoretically may improve glucose tolerance and prevent diabetes mellitus, according to background information in the article. In vitro and animal studies indicate that antimalarials improve insulin secretion and peripheral insulin sensitivity.

Mary Chester M. Wasko, M.D., M.Sc., of the University of Pittsburgh, Pa., and colleagues examined the association between hydroxychloroquine therapy and risk of diabetes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

During the observation period, incident diagnoses of diabetes were reported by 54 patients who had taken hydroxychloroquine and by 171 patients who had never taken it. Analysis indicated that patients who had taken hydroxychloroquine had a 38 percent lower risk of developing diabetes, compared with those who had not taken hydroxychloroquine. This risk was further reduced with increased duration of hydroxychloroquine use. Patients who took hydroxychloroquine for more than four years had a 77 percent lower risk of diabetes compared with those who had never taken hydroxychloroquine.

"We report herein the first evidence, to our knowledge, suggesting that use of hydroxychloroquine is associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, risk reduction increased with duration of hydroxychloroquine exposure, supporting a biological action of this drug on glucose metabolism," the authors wrote.

The researchers also said that 'anti-malarial drugs may have a role in treating rheumato
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