Common Prescription for Sjogren’s Syndrome May Be Ineffective

Sjogrens syndrome treatment with hydroxychloroquine did not relieve symptoms like pain and fatigue

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Autoimmune disorders can have an immediate impact on how you feel, sometimes causing pain and fatigue. Patients managing autoimmune conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome need relief.

Treatment of Sjogren’s syndrome focuses on the symptoms, the most common of which are dry eyes and mouth, pain and fatigue.

To treat symptoms, doctors commonly prescribe hydroxychloroquine, which carries a number of potential side effects like diarrhea, skin rash and eye problems.

New research has called into question whether the medication actually relieves symptoms, however.

"Talk to your doctor if you experience pain, fatigue or dryness."

Jacques-Eric Gottenberg, MD, PhD, of the department of rheumatology at University of Strasbourg Hospital in France, led the new research into Sjogren’s.

Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition that affects the body’s immune system, which fights off infection and disease. The condition often accompanies other immune problems like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

The primary symptoms are mouth and eye dryness, pain and fatigue. The primary medication for Sjogren’s is hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil.

Dr. Gottenberg and his research associates set out to analyze to what extent hydroxychloroquine helps patients dealing with Sjogren’s symptoms.

Between April 2008 and May 2011, 120 French patients with Sjogren’s syndrome were divided into two groups — one that received hydroxychloroquine and another receiving a placebo.

The researchers asked patients in both groups to rate their symptoms, with the 24-week goal being a 30 percent reduction in symptoms.

At the 24-week mark, 17.9 percent (10 of 56) patients in the hydroxychloroquine group reported meeting the goal of a 30 percent or greater reduction in symptoms.

Of the 64 patients in the placebo group, 17.2 percent (11 patients) reported meeting the same goal after 24 weeks of study participation.

During that time period, the placebo group reported less severe dryness and fatigue than the group receiving medication.

Dr. Gottenberg and team found no marked difference in symptom improvement between the two groups and called for further study to evaluate more long-term patient outcomes.

Even adjusting for other clinical and research variables, the researchers couldn't demonstrate hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness.

The study was published online July 15 by JAMA.

Grant funding was provided by the French Ministry of Research and Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris.

Several study authors disclosed receiving fees from numerous private companies, including several pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Review Date: 
July 15, 2014
Last Updated:
July 16, 2014