Immuno suppressing drugs do not increase Covid-19 risk

Patients on immunosuppressive therapy for common skin and rheumatic diseases like psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis are not at increased risk for contracting Covid-19 and should continue taking their medicine as prescribed, say researchers.

According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, most of these patients are not at any greater risk for Covid-19 than the general population, despite their weakened immune system.

“If you require an immune suppressant medication for your condition to be well controlled, you should not be afraid to continue that medication during the pandemic,” said study author Jesse Veenstra from Henry Ford Health System in the US.

For the findings, the research team analysed the association between immunosuppressive medications for skin diseases and the risk of Covid-19 infection and outcomes.

Until recently, little was known about managing patients on these medications in the pandemic and whether they may be at increased risk for infection with Covid-19 or related complications because of their weakened immune system.

The team conducted a retrospective analysis of 213 patients who were taking immunosuppressive medication for immune-mediated inflammatory disease.

The patients were tested for Covid-19 between February 1 and April 18 and had been receiving immunosuppressive medication for at least one month prior to being tested for Covid-19.

The findings showed that, of the 213 patients, 36 per cent tested Covid-19 positive and had no greater odds of being hospitalised or placed on a ventilator than the general population.

There was no evidence that any single immunosuppressive medication increased a patient’s odds for testing positive or developing serious disease.

Patients prescribed a TNF alpha inhibitor had significantly lower odds for hospitalisation. TNF alpha inhibitors are part of a class of immunosuppressive biologics used to stop inflammation.

“More research is needed to fully explain this finding, but it may suggest that multiple medications further suppress a patient’s immune system, thus rendering them more susceptible to Covid-19,” Veenstra noted.