Hydroxychloroquine Use Is Not Associated With QTc Length in a Large Cohort of SLE and RA Patients

Elizabeth Park; Jon T. Giles; Thania Perez-Recio; Paloma Pina; Christopher Depender; Yevgeniya Gartshteyn; Anca D. Askanase; Joan Bathon; Laura Geraldino-Pardilla


Arthritis Res Ther. 2021;23(271) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is a cornerstone therapy for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). However, reports of its use and subsequent fatal arrhythmias in patients with coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) have raised concern regarding its cardiovascular (CV) safety. Therefore, we examined the relationship between HCQ use and corrected QT (QTc) length in SLE and RA patients without clinical CV disease (CVD).

Methods: SLE patients from the Columbia University Lupus Cohort registry (n = 352) and two RA cohorts (n = 178; ESCAPE-RA and RHYTHM-RA) with electrocardiograms (ECGs) collected as part of study data were analyzed. RA cohort participants were recruited from tertiary referral centers with additional referrals from community rheumatologists, while SLE subjects originated from the Columbia University Lupus Cohort. All patients met American College of Rheumatology (ACR) classification criteria for SLE or RA and lacked known CVD. The exposure of interest was HCQ use and main outcome measure was QTc length [continuous or categorical (≥ 440 ms and ≥ 500 ms)].

Results: Of the combined SLE and RA cohorts (n = 530), 70% were HCQ users and 44% had a QTc ≥ 440 ms. The adjusted mean QTc length was comparable between HCQ users vs non-users (438 ms vs 437 ms). In multivariable logistic models, HCQ use was not a significant predictor of a QTc ≥ 440 ms for the entire cohort (OR 0.77; 95% CI 0.48–1.23; p = 0.27). Importantly, a QTc ≥ 500 ms was inversely associated with HCQ use and not associated with arrhythmias or deaths. A significant interaction was found between HCQ use and use of anti-psychotics. Ultimately, the use of HCQ combined with any QTc prolonging medication as a group was associated with a QTc length (434 ms; 95% CI 430, 439) which was comparable to that of use of HCQ alone (433 ms; 95% CI 429–437).

Conclusion: In a combined cohort of SLE and RA patients without clinical CVD, adjusted QTc length was comparable between HCQ and non-HCQ users, supporting its CV safety in patients with rheumatic diseases.