The use of an antimalarial medication may prevent the onset of diabetes in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to new research from Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa.
Researchers examined the records of 2,093 Geisinger patients who received treatment for rheumatoid arthritis from 2000 to 2008. The study looked at, among other things, use of the medication hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and the development of new cases of diabetes in these patients.
HCQ was developed to treat malaria, but it has also been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.
In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, use of HCQ was associated with a 53% reduction in the development of new cases of diabetes, the study found.
"Given the relative safety and low cost of this generic drug, HCQ may be useful in preventing diabetes in other high risk groups," says lead study investigator and Geisinger rheumatologist Androniki Bili, MD, MPH.
Researchers don’t know how exactly HCQ prevents diabetes onset but it’s suspected that HCQ improves glucose tolerance.
Some 23.6 million Americans have diabetes, while 1.3 million have rheumatoid arthritis.
People with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk for diabetes due to more sedentary lifestyle, chronic inflammation, and use of steroid medications that can cause weight gain.
"We should revisit HCQ in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis because, in addition to its disease-modifying properties, it might prevent the development of diabetes in this high risk group," Bili says.
[Source: Medical News Today]