Coronavirus: Continue taking rheumatism medication

Coronavirus: Continue taking rheumatism medication

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Rheumatism: Do not stop taking medication for fear of coronavirus

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread. People suffering from rheumatism are often particularly afraid to become infected due to the weakened immune system. Experts point out that this fear must not lead to the people affected stopping their medication.

According to previous estimates by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), patients with autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory rheumatism often have a weakened immune system (for example, by taking drugs that weaken the immune system) and are therefore generally initially at increased risk for severe COVID 19 courses, explains the German Rheumatism League. However, those affected should not stop taking their medication for fear of SARS-CoV-2.

Continue therapy unchanged

As the German Society for Rheumatology e.V. (DGRh) writes in a current release, researchers worldwide are investigating how an infection with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 affects patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases.

"As of today, it is largely unknown whether patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases are particularly at risk of becoming infected with the virus and whether - in the case of an infection - they have an increased risk of developing a viral disease," explains Professor Dr. med. Hendrik Schulze-Koops, President of the DGRh.

The specialist society therefore advises sufferers with inflammatory rheumatic diseases, like all other patients, to strictly adhere to the distance and hygiene recommendations of the RKI.

At the same time, the DGRh recommends that patients continue their therapy for their rheumatic disease as long as no infection with the virus has been detected and they have no symptoms of COVID-19 disease.

"There is reason to be concerned that a rheumatic disease could become active again and that even higher amounts of immunosuppressive drugs, such as cortisone, would be necessary for therapy," said Professor Schulze-Koops.

Sufferers showed fewer symptoms of respiratory diseases

According to the DGRh, an analysis by the University of Erlangen in cooperation with the clinics for rheumatology, gastroenterology and dermatology has now examined the occurrence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 in patients under ongoing therapy for inflammatory gastroenterological, rheumatological or dermatological disease.

Antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 were found less frequently in the blood of the anti-inflammatory treatment than in two control groups - among health care workers and among the healthy, non-health-care population.

In addition, patients treated with biologicals showed fewer symptoms of respiratory diseases between February and April 2020.

No special risk group

The study authors concluded from these observations that the patients on biological therapy were not at increased risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 compared to the two control groups.

They also concluded that SARS-CoV-2 infection may be less severe in these patients.

With their results, the authors support the recommendations of the DGRh to the extent that patients undergoing therapy for their inflammatory rheumatological, dermatological or gastroenterological disease do not represent a special risk group and therefore do not discontinue the therapy for fear of infection with SARS-CoV-2 alone should.

Dangerous conclusion

The press release of the University of Erlangen also derived from the results that patients with inflammatory diseases were protected from SARS-CoV-2 infection and from a severe course of COVID-19 disease by their therapy.

However, the DGRh sees this conclusion as unfounded and dangerous. Together with the authors of the study, who expressly distance themselves from this interpretation, the DGRh therefore points out that the study data are reassuring with regard to the risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the course of a COVID-19 disease .

However, they do not in any way allow a conclusion to be drawn that patients with inflammatory rheumatological, gastroenterological or dermatological diseases are protected from infection by their therapy or from a potentially fatal course of a COVID-19 infection.

Follow hygiene and distance recommendations

Patients with inflammatory rheumatic, gastroenterological and dermatological diseases should therefore continue to consistently follow the hygiene and distance recommendations of the RKI.

There is - as the data from Erlangen once again point out - no need to interrupt an ongoing therapy for fear of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

"But there is also no reason to be careless in the current situation or to take biologics without a medical indication to protect against a SARS-CoV-2 infection or a severe course of a COVID-19 disease," says the board of the DGRh . (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

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