From the Journals

Prehospital COVID therapy effective in rheumatic disease patients



Outpatient COVID-19 treatment with monoclonal antibodies or antiretroviral medications such as nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (Paxlovid) administered to patients with systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease led to lower odds of having severe outcomes when compared with similar patients who received no outpatient treatment in a real-world, retrospective analysis of cases.

The investigators found that there were nine hospitalizations or deaths (2.1%) among 426 patients who received outpatient treatment, compared with 49 (17.6%) among 278 who did not receive outpatient treatment, yielding an odds ratio of 0.12 (95% confidence interval, 0.05-0.25), after adjusting for age, sex, race, comorbidities, and kidney function. The study was published in Lancet Rheumatology.

Dr. Jeffrey A. Sparks, rheumatologist, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston

Dr. Jeffrey A. Sparks

“Across the board, there was a really strong association with receiving outpatient treatment and lower risk of severe COVID-19,” senior author Jeffrey A. Sparks, MD, MMSc, assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, said in an interview. “It is pretty powerful evidence that, in this high-risk group, that treatment still matters related to preventing severe COVID. We found almost all patients who had severe COVID-19, either hospitalized or who had died, were in the untreated group.”

Early outpatient treatment an important tool in patients with rheumatic disease

Dr. Sparks noted that he and his coinvestigators conducted the study because the benefit of outpatient COVID-19 treatments in individuals with systemic autoimmune rheumatic disease was not adequately determined in clinical trials because they had infrequent enrollment of such patients.

The analysis included 704 patients with a mean age of 58.4 years who were seen at Mass General Brigham Integrated Health Care System, a multicenter health care system that includes 14 hospitals and primary care or specialty outpatient centers in the Boston area. A majority were female (76%) and White (84%). Nearly half had rheumatoid arthritis. Of the 704, 426 (61%) received outpatient treatment, which included nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (n = 307), monoclonal antibodies (n = 105), molnupiravir (n = 5), remdesivir (n = 3), and combination treatment (n = 6).

The findings underline the need to individualize approaches to outpatient treatment in those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 to fend off severe COVID-19, according to Dr. Sparks. “It seems if you are vaccinated and in the general population that you are way less likely to have severe COVID-19 in the current environment, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to some high-risk groups like patients on immunosuppression. There are still patients at risk of severe COVID-19, and some of them are in this group of rheumatic patients. This should be part of the discussion related to deciding whether or not to treat.”

Dr. Sparks noted that vaccination against COVID-19 confers protection against developing severe COVID-19 in patients with rheumatic disease as it does in the general population, but patients with rheumatic diseases remain at increased risk for severe presentation. “Certainly, the vaccines really help our patients too, but there’s still a bit of a gap between the risk for our patients with rheumatic diseases and the general population” in developing severe COVID-19.

Dr. Sparks said he hopes the results represent a “call to action” that even among vaccinated patients there are still some who have poor outcomes, and that early outpatient treatment appears to be an important tool in the fight against poor outcomes from SARS-CoV-2 infection.


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