Rheumatology patients treatment jeopardized by coronavirus pandemic

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, many patient groups are at an increased risk of infection and this extends to rheumatology patients prescribed immunosuppressant medication. The outbreak has presented these patients with medical and logistical difficulties that will certainly jeopardize their treatment, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. 

Antoine Grey, MBiochem, Senior Healthcare Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Some rheumatology treatments such as intravenously administered biologics can only be provided at a specialized clinic, and it is not always feasible to delay infusions or swap the patient to a subcutaneous therapy that can be administered at home.

“For the duration of the current pandemic, it is important that rheumatology patients are not ignored by the NHS because they are not at the highest risk of infection, and instead have their medical needs adequately addressed.”

The NHS’s clinical guide, published in March, defines at-risk rheumatology patients as those receiving conventional disease-modifying drugs (cDMARDs), Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors and biologics. Of the rheumatology disease listed by the guide, only polymyalgia rheumatic (PMR) was listed as ‘increased’ risk and rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis are listed as ‘increased/high’. All other diseases listed, of which there were 26, were listed as either ‘high’ or ‘high/very high’, demonstrating the importance of managing the risk of infection in these patients.”

Should a rheumatology patient become infected with coronavirus, they are advised to temporarily stop their cDMARD and biologic therapy, contacting their local rheumatology service for advice on when to restart treatment.

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