Spotlight on Research 2008

February 2008 (historical)

Antirheumatic, Antimalarial Treatment Reduces Diabetes Risk in People With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Researchers partly funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) recently found that hydroxychloroquine, a medication used to treat rheumatic diseases and malaria, reduced the incidence of diabetes in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an inflammatory disease that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in the joints.

The study's lead author, Mary Chester M. Wasko, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh , along with Michael M. Ward, M.D., of the NIAMS Intramural Research Program, and their colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that among the 384 people with RA selected for observation, the use of hydroxychloroquine was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Investigators analyzed data from the Arthritis, Rheumatism, and Aging Medical Information System, a data bank with information on thousands of people with rheumatic diseases. After examining the data, Dr. Wasko and her team concluded that the reduction in diabetes risk increased with the duration of hydroxychloroquine use. People with RA who took the medication for more than four years showed a reduction in risk of diabetes of up to 77 percent.

Other supporters of this study included the Arthritis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania and the National Arthritis Foundation.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site at .


Wasko MC, et al . Hydroxychloroquine and risk of diabetes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. JAMA 2007;298(2):187-193.