People with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus often take medicines that suppress their immune system as part of their regular treatment.
In a new editorial in Australian Prescriber, Associate Professor Phillip Robinson and Dr Evan Bursle from the University of Queensland advise people with autoimmune diseases to keep taking their medicines as prescribed, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A healthy immune system helps protect the body from infections including viruses like coronavirus,” says Associate Professor Robinson.
“However, for people with autoimmune diseases, the body’s own immune system attacks itself which is why immunosuppressants are used in treatment.
“From what we know from currently available studies, people taking immunosuppressants are no more likely than the general population to be hospitalised for COVID-19, to need oxygen in hospital, or to die from the infection.
“It remains important, however, to keep autoimmune diseases under control. This is why international rheumatology guidelines recommend that people with autoimmune disease only stop treatment if they get COVID-19.
“For people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, suspending the immunosuppressant medicines may be appropriate depending on the circumstances of the individual person. If you do find yourself in this situation, your doctor will advise you of the best course of action for you,” says Associate Professor Robinson.
Read the full Australian Prescriber editorial, and listen to the podcast.
The NPS MedicineWise COVID-19 hub is being regularly updated and is a valuable source of the latest information on COVID-19.