Rheumatol Int. 2022 Apr 16. doi: 10.1007/s00296-022-05125-0. Online ahead of print.
COVID-19 raised concern regarding cardiotoxicity and QTc prolongation of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and chloroquine (CQ). We examined the frequency and patient factors associated with ECG testing and the detection of prolonged QTc among new HCQ/CQ users in a large academic medical system. 10,248 subjects with a first HCQ/CQ prescription (1/2015-3/2020) were included. We assessed baseline (1 year prior to and including day of initiation of HCQ/CQ through 2 months after initial HCQ/CQ prescription) and follow-up (10 months after the baseline period) patient characteristics and ECGs obtained from electronic health records. Among 8384 female HCQ/CQ new users, ECGs were obtained for 22.3%, 14.3%, and 7.6%, at baseline, follow, and both periods, respectively. Among 1864 male HCQ/CQ new users, ECGs were obtained more frequently at baseline (29.7%), follow-up (18.0%), and both periods (11.3%). Female HCQ/CQ users with a normal QTc at baseline but prolonged QTc (> 470 ms) at follow-up (13.1%) were older at HCQ/CQ initiation [mean 64.7 (SD 16.5) vs. 58.7 (SD 16.9) years, p = 0.004] and more likely to have history of myocardial infarction (41.0% vs. 21.6%, p = 0.0003) compared to those who had normal baseline and follow-up QTc. The frequency of prolonged QTc development was similar (12.4%) among male HCQ/CQ new users (> 450 ms). Prior to COVID-19, ECG testing before and after HCQ/CQ prescription was infrequent, particularly for females who are disproportionately affected by rheumatic diseases and were just as likely to develop prolonged QTc (> 1/10 new users). Prospective studies are needed to guide future management of HCQ/CQ therapy in rheumatic populations.