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Objectives Concern has been raised in the rheumatological community regarding recent regulatory warnings that hydroxychloroquine used in the COVID-19 pandemic could cause acute psychiatric events. We aimed to study whether there is risk of incident depression, suicidal ideation, or psychosis associated with hydroxychloroquine as used for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods New user cohort study using claims and electronic medical records from 10 sources and 3 countries (Germany, UK and US). RA patients aged 18+ and initiating hydroxychloroquine were compared to those initiating sulfasalazine (active comparator) and followed up in the short (30-day) and long term (on treatment). Study outcomes included depression, suicide/suicidal ideation, and hospitalization for psychosis. Propensity score stratification and calibration using negative control outcomes were used to address confounding. Cox models were fitted to estimate database-specific calibrated hazard ratios (HR), with estimates pooled where I2<40%. Results 918,144 and 290,383 users of hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine, respectively, were included. No consistent risk of psychiatric events was observed with short-term hydroxychloroquine (compared to sulfasalazine) use, with meta-analytic HRs of 0.96 [0.79-1.16] for depression, 0.94 [0.49-1.77] for suicide/suicidal ideation, and 1.03 [0.66-1.60] for psychosis. No consistent long-term risk was seen, with meta-analytic HRs 0.94 [0.71-1.26] for depression, 0.77 [0.56-1.07] for suicide/suicidal ideation, and 0.99 [0.72-1.35] for psychosis. Conclusions Hydroxychloroquine as used to treat RA does not appear to increase the risk of depression, suicide/suicidal ideation, or psychosis compared to sulfasalazine. No effects were seen in the short or long term. Use at higher dose or for different indications needs further investigation.

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