Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the joints and can lead to various other health issues. Previous research has indicated a high prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in RA patients. There’s a possibility that the drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) might reduce this risk.

Study Purpose: This study aimed to explore whether HCQ is associated with a decreased risk of developing NAFLD in RA patients using data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD).

Methods: Researchers looked at data from 41,791 newly diagnosed RA patients between 2002 and 2020. They excluded those with existing liver diseases or missing information, narrowing it down to 21,458 patients. They used statistical models to analyze the data, adjusting for various factors that could influence the results.

Results: The average age of patients was about 52 years, and there were more women than men (3.2 to 1 ratio). Over an average follow-up of 8.4 years, 399 patients (1.86%) developed NAFLD. The analysis showed that those who used HCQ had a significantly lower risk of developing NAFLD (by 25%). Other factors influencing NAFLD risk included obesity, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and different dosages of prednisolone. The protective effect of HCQ was particularly noticeable in patients under 50 years old and in female patients.

Conclusion: The study concludes that HCQ is linked to a reduced risk of NAFLD in RA patients, especially among younger and female patients. This suggests that HCQ could be a beneficial treatment for reducing liver disease risk in these individuals.