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It has been found that certain strains of P. falciparum have become resistant to 4-aminoquinoline compounds (including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine). Chloroquine resistance is widespread and, at present, is particularly prominent in various parts of the world including sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and over large portions of South America, including the Amazon basin1.
Before using chloroquine for prophylaxis, it should be ascertained whether chloroquine is appropriate for use in the region to be visited by the traveler. Chloroquine should not be used for treatment of P. falciparum infections acquired in areas of chloroquine resistance or malaria occurring in patients where chloroquine prophylaxis has failed.
Patients infected with a resistant strain of plasmodia as shown by the fact that normally adequate doses have failed to prevent or cure clinical malaria or parasitemia should be treated with another form of antimalarial therapy.
Retinopathy/maculopathy, as well as macular degeneration have been reported (see ADVERSE REACTIONS), and irreversible retinal damage has been observed in some patients who had received long-term or high-dosage 4-aminoquinoline therapy. Retinopathy has been reported to be dose related. Risk factors for the development of retinopathy include age, duration of treatment, high daily and/or cumulated doses.
When prolonged therapy with any antimalarial compound is contemplated, initial (base line) and periodic ophthalmologic examinations (including visual acuity, expert slit-lamp, funduscopic, and visual field tests) should be performed.
If there is any indication (past or present) of abnormality in the visual acuity, visual field, or retinal macular areas (such as pigmentary changes, loss of foveal reflex), or any visual symptoms (such as light flashes and streaks) which are not fully explainable by difficulties of accommodation or corneal opacities, the drug should be discontinued immediately and the patient closely observed for possible progression. Retinal changes (and visual disturbances) may progress even after cessation of therapy.
All patients on long-term therapy with this preparation should be questioned and examined periodically, including testing knee and ankle reflexes, to detect any evidence of muscular weakness. If weakness occurs, discontinue the drug.
A number of fatalities have been reported following the accidental ingestion of chloroquine, sometimes in relatively small doses (0.75 g or 1 g chloroquine phosphate in one 3-year-old child). Patients should be strongly warned to keep this drug out of the reach of children because they are especially sensitive to the 4-aminoquinoline compounds.
Use of ARALEN in patients with psoriasis may precipitate a severe attack of psoriasis. When used in patients with porphyria the condition may be exacerbated. The drug should not be used in these conditions unless in the judgment of the physician the benefit to the patient outweighs the potential risks.
Usage in Pregnancy
Radioactively tagged chloroquine administered intravenously to pregnant pigmented CBA mice passed rapidly across the placenta and accumulated selectively in the melanin structures of the fetal eyes. It was retained in the ocular tissues for five months after the drug had been eliminated from the rest of the body2. There are no adequate and well-controlled studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of chloroquine in pregnant women. Usage of chloroquine during pregnancy should be avoided except in the suppression or treatment of malaria when in the judgment of the physician the benefit outweighs the potential risk to the fetus.
1. Malaria Deaths Following Inappropriate Malaria Chemoprophylaxis – United States, 2001. MMWR Weekly, 2001; 50(28): 597-599.
2. Ullberg S, Lindquist N G, Sjostrand S E: Accumulation of chorioretinotoxic drugs in the foetal eye. Nature 1970; 227: 1257.
Hematological Effects/Laboratory Tests
Complete blood cell counts should be made periodically if patients are given prolonged therapy. If any severe blood disorder appears which is not attributable to the disease under treatment, discontinuance of the drug should be considered.
The drug should be administered with caution to patients having G-6-PD (glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase) deficiency.
In patients with preexisting auditory damage, chloroquine should be administered with caution. In case of any defects in hearing, chloroquine should be immediately discontinued, and the patient closely observed (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).
Central Nervous System Effects
Patients with history of epilepsy should be advised about the risk of chloroquine provoking seizures.
See WARNINGS, Usage in Pregnancy.
Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from chloroquine, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or to discontinue the drug, taking into account the potential clinical benefit of the drug to the mother.
The excretion of chloroquine and the major metabolite, desethylchloroquine, in breast milk was investigated in eleven lactating mothers following a single oral dose of chloroquine (600 mg base). The maximum daily dose of the drug that the infant can receive from breastfeeding was about 0.7% of the maternal start dose of the drug in malaria chemotherapy. Separate chemoprophylaxis for the infant is required. See DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION.
See WARNINGS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION.
Clinical studies of ARALEN did not include sufficient numbers of subjects aged 65 and over to determine whether they respond differently from younger subjects. However, this drug is known to be substantially excreted by the kidney, and the risk of toxic reactions to this drug may be greater in patients with impaired renal function. Because elderly patients are more likely to have decreased renal function, care should be taken in dose selection and it may be useful to monitor renal function.
Last reviewed on RxList: 11/21/2013
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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