Immune suppressing drugs & Coronovirus

With the spread of Coronovirus into Europe, I’ve started to think more seriously about what if... (I am a worrier).
I have RA and take Hydroxychloroquine to suppress my immune system. As a result I find it more difficult to fight off the usual viruses etc and they often persist. I also have a young child in school, so we get a lot! If it takes hold in the UK, I’m wondering whether to stop taking my RA medication as a precaution.
Does anyone know / can anyone point me in the right direction to find out:
- How long would it take to get out of my system (e.g. 3 months+ to start working, same to stop?)
- Can the medication be stopped and restarted and be effective once more (I’ve heard this can’t be done with Methotrexate)
Many thanks in advance


  • siprego
    siprego Member Posts: 3
    I have started to cut down on my hydroxychloroquine by 50% and hopefully totally within 3 months stop all together. Not only for the fact of the covid19 virus' but also for the fact it could make your sight diminish. I got so frightened when I received an appointment for a scan of my eyes using drops which cause dilation of the pupils for upto 4 hours I want to stop totally.
  • louisealice
    louisealice Member Posts: 25


    I understand the current advice is not to stop taking your medication - that's clear. Where I am uncertain is which category I fit into re the government's most recent advice? I am currently taking Sarilumab/Kevzara biological treatment in a fortnightly injection, to treat my sero negative inflammatory arthritis. I have had both the flu and pneumonia shots as advised by my rheumatologist. I'm 52 and otherwise fit and healthy.

    Am I in the normal social distancing group with the majority or, because of the drugs impact, am I in the at risk group and need to isolate indoors for 12 weeks?

    my confusion is because I can't find any direct advice which mentions arthritis, examples given are of very extreme immunosuppression, such as people with leaukemia, after a transplant etc.

    thanks Louise

  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520

    I think it was yesterday that the government altered its advice to the following: if you qualify for a free flu jab you should self-isolate for up to three months. I am not surprised that arthritis has not been specifically stated as many do not realise that immuno-suppressing drugs are involved in the treatment of the auto-immune varieties. DD (a forum member)

    Have you got the despatches? No, I always walk like this. Eddie Braben
  • JanMoo
    JanMoo Member Posts: 2

    This is exactly the question I came on here to ask about, as all I am being told elsewhere is 'don't stop your medication without speaking to your healthcare professional'. Things have moved on since the original post and the chances of speaking to a healthcare professional are zero!

    I started on hydroxychloroquine 2 months ago, for palindromic arthritis, although the consultant said it was up to me if I took it or not. So I would be happy to stop, and try again in a few months time (I know it takes a while to build up).

    I followed the links above but they just give general information and don't really answer this question.

    Is this hydroxychloroquine classed as an immunosuppressant (I am finding different information) and does this therefore put me at higher risk during this coronavirus pandemic? Any help appreciated.

  • Sharon_K
    Sharon_K Member Posts: 460

    Hi @JanMoo

    I have found the following information to try and answer your question more fully. While hydroxychloroquine does regulate the activity of the immune system, all we can base our advice on at this point is if people are recommended to have the flu jab – rather than what specific treatments and conditions they have.

    If you do need the annual flu jab then the advice would be for you to follow the more stringent social distancing measures.

    As you say it is hard to keep up to date and we are updating our information to be as specific as possible as it is being made available so it is worth checking our link on the home page of the website daily. We understand this is a difficult time

    Best Wishes


  • JanMoo
    JanMoo Member Posts: 2

    Thanks to Admin and also to the Helpdesk who were great.

    My understanding now is that hydrochloroquine is a disease modifier not an immune suppressant - so where the immune system is in overdrive, the drugs just bring it back to that of a normal person, so no additional risk. I'm just reporting my understanding, in my own language as this is all fairly new to me (might be old news to others!).

    However if you have an underlying condition and you catch a virus then you may be at a higher risk of it being serious. So it is wise to be extra-cautious.

    Personally I am indoors now for the foreseeable future, apart from a quick dash to a local shop. I've been avoiding the big supermarkets for weeks!

  • Hi everyone

    Rather than try to summarise the current situation and risk inaccuracy, we'd suggest you work through the following information. If having gone through it you are still unsure, you are welcome to ring us for a chat at the Helpline 0800 5200 520 9am - 8pm weekdays. If you still feel at risk, the advice is to self-isolate (better to be safe...). For medical advice, please speak to rheumatology or your GP.

    Best wishes, Guy Helpline Team