April 2021

COVID-19-related Death in Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs)

Researchers from the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance studied 3,729 people with RMDs and COVID-19.

  • In common with the general population, older age was more closely linked to COVID-19 related death

o Out of those who died, 69% were over the age of 65

o There was a higher risk for death for men compared to women

  • Most RMD medications were not associated with COVID-19 death

o People with RMDs should continue taking their medication unless told otherwise by their rheumatologist or other healthcare professionals managing their care

  • People with lower RMD disease activity or in remission were less likely to die from COVID-19 compared with those with higher disease activity, highlighting the importance of adequate disease control
  • 3 or more comorbidities were also more common in people who died from COVID-19

o 21% of those studied had 3 or more comorbidities

o 43% of those studied, who died, had 3 or more comorbidities

o Hypertension (35%), chronic lung disease (19%), obesity (BMI ≥30, 16%), diabetes 14%, other CVD (12%), and CKD (7%) were the most relevant comorbidities

  • People with RMDs under certain medications may have a higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease

o Caution may be required with rituximab, some immunosuppressants, and possibly sulfasalazine

– Although, disease severity and comorbidities may have also contributed to these reported associations

Source: Strangfeld A, Schäfer M, Gianfrancesco MA, et al. Factors associated with COVID-19-related death in people with rheumatic diseases: results from the COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance physician-reported registry. Ann Rheum Dis. 27 January 2021. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2020-219498.

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