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04-08-2011 | Article

Antimalarials drugs also helpful for inflammatory skin condition


Free abstract

MedWire News: Medications for malaria may also be helpful in people with an inflammatory skin condition known as cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), scientific research suggests.

The new study found that people with CLE, which causes bumps, plaques, and nodules on the skin, showed an improvement in their symptoms after taking one or two antimalarial drugs.

"Further reductions in disease activity can be associated with continuation of treatment with antimalarial agents," say Victoria Werth (Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), who led the study, and colleagues writing in the journal Archives of Dermatology.

Antimalarial drugs have been used for many years to treat CLE but their effects have not been studied systematically. To address the need for more evidence, Werth's team studied 128 patients with CLE who attended a hospital clinic between January 2007 and July 2010.

Importantly, none of the patients were taking immune-system drugs known as immunomodulators or immunsuppressives, which may also be used to treat CLE.

A total of 11 patients were started on an antimalarial drug called hydroxychloroquine. Of these, more than half had a good response to treatment, as judged by a decline in their disease activity scores (a way of measuring the extent and severity of skin lesions).

A further 15 patients had previously been treated with hydroxychloroquine but had stopped taking the drug. These patients were restarted on hydroxychloroquine and given a second antimalarial medication, quinacrine, as well. Of these patients, two-thirds had a good response to the new "two-drug" treatment.

Importantly, patients who showed a good response to their treatment - whether it was with one or two drugs - had around a 50:50 chance of continuing to respond well over the next two clinic visits (representing a period of around 4 months).

Commenting on their research, Werth and colleagues say that antimalarial drugs can be effective in treating CLE in people who are not also taking the more powerful immune-system drugs.

In this study, around half of patients given hydroxychloroquine had a good response to their treatment, say the researchers. Furthermore, some patients who had previously stopped responding to hydroxychloroquine benefited from re-starting hydroxychloroquine with quinacrine given alongside.

They write: "Larger studies are necessary to evaluate response to antimalarial agents and any differences across CLE subtypes."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford