June 9, 2020
The American College of Rheumatology enlisted 14 experts on infectious diseases and immune system illnesses to develop and publish 25 recommendations on treating lupus and related immune system diseases amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lupus Research Alliance would like to share these with the lupus community as information, but recommend talking to your own healthcare provider before making any change to your medication regimen.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about how patients with lupus or other autoimmune diseases—illnesses in which the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues–should mange their symptoms without increasing their chances of infection or putting health care providers or other people at risk. For example, the corticosteroids that many patients with lupus rely on to reduce inflammation inhibit the immune system and could in theory make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The guidelines suggest that patients and doctors take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
The recommendations also provide detailed advice about which drugs patients can take in specific situations. For instance, the authors counsel that patients who are not infected should continue to take all drugs such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, and belimumab (Benlysta) that inhibit the immune system. But because these therapies could reduce patients’ ability to fight off the virus, the guidelines suggest that patients who are infected or exposed to the virus temporarily discontinue them.
For the full list of recommendations, see the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology. Again, this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace recommendations from your own treating physicians.