Antihyperglycemic properties of hydroxychloroquine in patients with diabetes: Risks and benefits at the time of COVID-19 pandemic

Marco Infante, Camillo Ricordi, Andrea Fabbri

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Scopus citations


The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) has long been used as a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug for the treatment of several inflammatory rheumatic diseases. Over the last three decades, various studies have shown that HCQ also plays a role in the regulation of glucose homeostasis. Although the mechanisms of action underlying the glucose-lowering properties of HCQ are still not entirely clear, evidence suggests that this drug may exert multifaceted effects on glucose regulation, including improvement of insulin sensitivity, increase of insulin secretion, reduction of hepatic insulin clearance, and reduction of systemic inflammation. Preliminary studies have shown the safety and efficacy of HCQ (at a dose ranging from 400 to 600 mg/day) in patients with type 2 diabetes over a short-term period. In 2014, HCQ has been approved in India as an add-on hypoglycemic agent for patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. However, large randomized controlled trials are needed to establish the safety and efficacy profile of HCQ in patients with type 2 diabetes over a long-term period. With regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, several medications (including HCQ) have been used as off-label drugs because of the lack of proven effective therapies. However, emerging evidence shows limited benefit from HCQ use in COVID-19 in general. The aim of this manuscript is to comprehensively summarize the current knowledge on the antihyperglycemic properties of HCQ and to critically evaluate the potential risks and benefits related to HCQ use in patients with diabetes, even in light of the current pandemic scenario.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Diabetes
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • antidiabetic medications
  • diabetes mellitus
  • hydroxychloroquine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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