Chloroquine is a medication used to prevent and to treat malaria in areas where malaria is known to be sensitive to its effects. Certain types of malaria, such as falciparum, are especially dangerous and sometimes fatal. Chloroquine is also used to treat amebiasis (infection caused by amoebae).

Chloroquine belongs to a group of medications known as antimalarials. It works by preventing or treating malaria, a red blood cell infection transmitted by the bite of a mosquito.

If you are taking chloroquine to prevent malaria, you will probably take it once a week. This medicine is sometimes given for other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus.

Chloroquine may be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

You should not use chloroquine if you are allergic to it.

To make sure chloroquine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have any of these conditions:

  • psoriasis;
  • porphyria;
  • diabetes;
  • a history of mental illness;
  • epilepsy or other seizure disorder;
  • lupus;
  • alcoholism;
  • glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency;
  • heart disease, history of heart attack or stroke;
  • long QT syndrome (in you or a family member);
  • a muscle disorder such as myasthenia gravis;
  • nerve disorder; or
  • a history of vision changes or damage to your retina.

Some people taking this medicine have developed a serious neurological condition called neuropsychiatric lupus. Symptoms of neuropsychiatric lupus include anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and seizures. Call your doctor at once if you have any of these symptoms.

Chloroquine has been shown to cause severe hypoglycemia including loss of consciousness that could be life-threatening. Older adults may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially QT prolongation (see above).

Use chloroquine with caution in the elderly; they may be more sensitive to its effects, including serious side effects.

Children may be more sensitive to the side effects of this drug, especially low blood sugar levels. Children may be more likely to develop low blood sugar levels if they take this drug with certain other diabetes medications.

Chloroquine should be used with extreme caution in children younger than 2 years old; safety and effectiveness in these children have not been confirmed.

Fatal overdoses have occurred in children and adults who have accidentally ingested chloroquine. Be sure that any chloroquine product you purchase does not contain chloroquine phosphate, only chloroquine sulfate.

Chloroquine should not be used during pregnancy. It could harm the unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment.

Malaria is more likely to cause death in a pregnant woman. If you are pregnant, talk with your doctor about the risks of traveling to areas where malaria is common.

It is not known whether chloroquine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are using this medicine. Do not give this medication to anyone under 18 years old without medical advice.

How should I take chloroquine?

Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Chloroquine is usually taken once a week on the same day each week. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take chloroquine exactly as directed.

Your doctor will probably want to do a blood test to check for diabetes before you start taking chloroquine.

To prevent malaria: Start taking the medicine 1 week before entering an area where malaria is common. Continue taking chloroquine every week during your stay and for at least 8 weeks after you leave the area. Talk with your doctor before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.

To treat malaria: Chloroquine is usually given for 3 days, starting with one high dose followed by a smaller dose during the next 2 days in a row. To treat amoebiasis: Chloroquine is given in a high starting dose for 2 days followed by a smaller dose for 2 to 3 weeks. You may be given other medications to help prevent serious side effects or reduce the risk of relapse.

Use this medicine for the full prescribed length of time. Your symptoms may improve before the infection is completely cleared. When treating lupus or arthritis, tell your doctor if your symptoms do not improve after 6 months of treatment. For best results, keep using the medication as directed. Talk with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve after 6 months of treatment. If you stop taking chloroquine too soon, your symptoms may return.

If you are taking chloroquine to treat amoebiasis, you will probably take it for 5 to 10 days. Chloroquine works best when you take it on a regular schedule. For example, if you are taking it once a week to prevent malaria, it is best to take it on the same day each week. If you are taking it to treat amoebiasis, follow your doctor's instructions.

Take chloroquine with food or milk. Swallow the tablet whole. Do not chew, break, or crush it.

While using chloroquine, you may need frequent blood tests at your doctor's office.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose

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