Background Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) retinopathy after 10 years or more of use is more frequent than previously appreciated. This led to new ophthalmology guidelines that changed the recommended dosing from 6.5 mg/kg to 5 mg/kg. However, it is not clear that the lower dose of hydroxychloroquine will have the same efficacy for SLE activity or the same protective role against cardiovascular risk factors and thrombosis. We asked whether hydroxychloroquine blood levels could help identify those at greater future risk of retinopathy.
Methods We analyzed data on 537 SLE patients from a clinical cohort who had repeated assessments of HCQ blood concentrations, and were evaluated one or more times for retinopathy (300 single retinopathy exam, 149 two and 88 three or more assessments). The patients were 92% female and 42% Caucasian. Hydroxychloroquine blood levels were performed as previously described. In our analysis, HCQ toxicity was defined dichotomously by a retina expert: all those with a value of No or Possible were categorized as not having HCQ toxicity, and those who had a Yes were categorized as having it. Mean and maximum HCQ blood concentration over all cohort visits prior to the final retinopathy assessment were calculated. Risk of HCQ toxicity was then assessed in tertiles defined by these variables.
Results Significant risk factors for retinal toxicity are shown in table 1.
Conclusions Our data show that the risk of HCQ retinopathy is higher in men and Caucasians. As expected, it is higher in older patients and with greater duration. We also found that BMI and hypertension were predictive of HCQ retinopathy. For the first time, our data show the utility of HCQ blood levels in predicting retinopathy. This would allow clinicians to either decrease dose or increase monitoring in those with high blood levels.
Funding Source(s): The Hopkins Lupus Cohort was funded by NIH Grant R01-AR069572.
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