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What you should know about chloroquine: use, side effects, safety


What is chloroquine?

Chloroquine is a  well known prescription drugs used for the treatment of malaria. It is most commonly sold as generic but also exists in brands like Nivaquine (chloroquine sulphate) and Aralen (chloroquine phosphate)

It is currently in clinical trials (under investigation) as a potential treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic. It however NOT YET APPROVED as a treatment so use with caution. Its safety and efficacy (against COVID-19) has not yet been established in adults or pediatric patients. (March, 2020)

Chloroquine phosphate
Source: Food and Drug Administration

Presentation of chloroquine

Aralen (chloroquine phosphate) is available as a syrup or a 250mg (or 150mg base) and a 500mg (0r 300mg base) tablet.

Nivaquine (chloroquine sulphate) is available as 100mg or 200mg tablets and a 25mg/5ml 150ml syrup.

Who can use chloroquine?

Adults and children of all ages. The dose in children is given by weight. Relatively safe use in pregnant women (all trimesters) and breast-feeding mothers. Always let your health care provider know before taking chloroquine about:

  • Any conditions you might have and
  • Other medication, herbs or supplements you are currently taking.
Drug interactions

Who should not use chloroquine?

Do not use chloroquine if you have had

  • An allergic reaction to chloroquine,
  • If you have eye problems especially those involving the retina or
  • If you have heart problems like arrythmias.

Where can I buy chloqroquine?

Like all other prescription drugs, buy chloroquine should be bought in an accredited community/hospital pharmacy on presentation of the prescription (from doctor). Buying from roadside sellers exposes you to unknown risk (from buying empty medicines to those with dangerous substances)

Roadside medicines

How should I take Chloroquine?

Take as prescribed by your health care provider. Read drug label to be sure you are taking your medicine well. Chloroquine is not a drug for self-medication.Many have already died from self-medication. Overdose can be fatal. 

What are the possible side effects of chloroquine?

All medicines come with side effects. What you should know about side effects is that some may or may not experience any side effects. Always read drug labels to know what you should expect. 

The most common side effects you may experience with chloroquine include (but not limited to) stomach pain and/or upset, nausea, vomiting, headache, itching. 

To reduce the side effects of chloroquine, take with food.

Take with food

See a doctor if:

  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Blurred vision
  • Yellowing of the eye
  • Convulsions
  • Difficulty hearing/ ringing in the ear
  • Difficulty breathing

It may be symptoms of an overdose which need to be taken care of immediately as an overdose with chloroquine can be fatal

What should I avoid when taking chloroquine?

Chloroquine does not mix well with some other substances. Just to name a few, chloroquine can affect or be affected by antacids , insulin or oral anti-diabetic medicines, other antimalarial medicines, paracetamol, ampicillin, cimetidine, heart rhythm drugs, anti epileptic drugs. 

Tip: you might have to give a gap of at least 2 hours before or after both drugs

Note: special attention should be given (monitoring) when taken with other drugs like azithromycin which have an impact on the heart. 

What happens if I miss a dose of chloroquine?

Take as soon as you remember. If almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not double the dose.

How do I store chloroquine at home?

Store medicine in its original container, keep out of reach of children, away from light, excess heat and moisture. 

How do I dispose of chloroquine?

Follow drug leaflet information. Read about general guidelines on how to dispose of your medicines here. 


Chloroquine is a medication taken with a given prescription. It is not meant for self medication. Use only for its indicated purpose.  Always read drug leaflets and buy from accredited sources. For more information, your pharmacist can help you.

Stay Safe!

About the Author

Dr. Ekwoge Hilda is a trained pharmacist from Cameroon and Co-founder of HILPharma. When she is not busy creating content, she slings pills to pay the bills at the Buea Regional Hospital and also serves as the Focal Point for Supply Chain Management of drugs in the district of Buea.

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