Plaquenil® Update

Important Information on Plaquenil® and COVID-19

New Zealand, 26 March 2020 – There has been increased media coverage around the off-label use of hydroxychloroquine in the management of COVID-19 based on preliminary results from independent studies from different countries. The situation is raising many questions from our different stakeholders.

Patient safety is the priority

To date there is insufficient clinical evidence to draw any conclusions over the clinical efficacy or safety of hydroxychloroquine (or chloroquine) in the management of COVID-19. The preliminary results from different independent studies require further analysis and more robust and larger clinical studies to assess the patient benefit/risk profile of Plaquenil® in COVID-19.

Today in New Zealand, Plaquenil® (hydroxychloroquine) is registered in acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis, mild systemic and discoid lupus erythematosus and the suppression and treatment of malaria.

Any use of this medicine in the management of COVID-19 is considered an off-label use (i.e. in absence of a marketing authorisation for the indication of COVID-19).

Ensure supply continuity

One of our top priorities is to ensure supply continuity for use of Plaquenil® in the current indications.

Sanofi is working with local health authorities and scientific experts in different countries impacted by the outbreak in order to investigate the patient benefit/risk profile of Plaquenil® (hydroxychloroquine) in the treatment of COVID-19 and if requested by the local governments and / or health authorities, to provide or donate the product. Sanofi has the manufacturing capacity to increase production while maintaining appropriate supply levels for Plaquenil® current registrations and indications.

For medical information or questions:
Please contact the Sanofi’s New Zealand Medical Information Helpline from 8am – 6pm (AEST) Monday – Friday: 0800 283 684


In New Zealand, Plaquenil® (hydroxychloroquine) is registered in rheumatoid arthritis, mild systemic and discoid lupus erythematosus and the suppression and treatment of malaria.

The main side effects of hydroxychloroquine are described in the product information. At the recommended daily dose for approved indications, ranging from 200 to 400 mg (without exceeding 600 mg at treatment onset) daily in adults for chronic treatment of autoimmune indications, or based on body weight (and without exceeding 1550 mg base in adults) in acute treatment of malaria, the most serious side effects of hydroxychloroquine are eye disorders following long term use, including retinopathy, with changes in pigmentation and visual field defects and severe hypoglycemia including loss of consciousness (in patients treated with and without antidiabetic medications). Cardiotoxic effects are rare but serious complications of hydroxychloroquine, which include acute cardiac conduction disorders (QT prolongation, ventricular arrhythmia) have also been observed. Neurological, hepatic, severe skin disorders, allergic reactions, hypoglycemia have also been described.

Hydroxychloroquine should be used with caution in patients receiving drugs known to prolong the QT interval such as some anti-infectives, e.g. macrolides including azithromycin, due to an increased risk of ventricular arrhythmia.

The risk and severity of side-effects may increase with a higher posology (dosage) of hydroxychloroquine.

Healthcare professionals should consult the current Product Information for the most up to date safety information.  Patients taking hydroxychloroquine-containing medicines, like any other medicines, should follow the instructions provided in the Consumer Medicine Information. 

Patients must not take Plaquenil® without medical prescription or advice.
They should always consult with their healthcare professionals.

Sanofi is asking local Health Authorities to communicate a clear position regarding current lack of robust clinical data for the use of Plaquenil®, in the management of COVID-19, emphasizing that such use will be off-label, and to communicate the known serious adverse reactions associated with Plaquenil®, namely the contraindications in patients with known hypersensitivity to 4-aminoquinoline compounds; with pre-existing maculopathy of the eye; below 6 years of age (200mg tablets not adapted for weight <35 kg) and the risk of retinal toxicity, hypoglycemia and cardiac toxicity  as well as the known risk of interactions.

Sanofi also requests that all off-label use is communicated to Sanofi’s New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Team at or on 0800 283 684 (option 4), or directly to CARM New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre at