Severe COVID-19 Cases and Death Rates show Downward Trend for those with Systemic Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases

August 15, 2022

A recent study, published in Epidemiology, analyzed trends in patients with systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs) from the first COVID-19 wave through the initial Omicron wave. Their goal was to investigate how trends of incidence and severity of COVID-19 in those with SARDs have changed over time. Out of the 1,449 SARD patients with COVID-19 identified for this study, “the most common type of SARD was rheumatoid arthritis (33.9%), followed by psoriatic arthritis and spondyloarthritis (14.7%) and systemic lupus erythematosus (13.1%). Most patients (74.1%) were in remission or had low disease activity at time of COVID-19 onset. Baseline glucocorticoids were used in 26.0% of cases. The most commonly used DMARD [disease modifying antirheumatic drug] was methotrexate (22.0%), followed by antimalarials (21.7%) and TNF inhibitors (20.2%). Rituximab was used in 9.2% of cases.”

Overall, it appears that worst outcomes have lessened for those with SARDs (as well as for the general population) when comparing the Omicron wave versus the early months of the pandemic. When comparing rates of severe* COVID-19 cases in those with SARDs, the rate dropped from 46% in March-June 2020 to 15% in December 2021-January 2022. Death rates for those same time periods also dropped from 8.8% to 2%.


* Severe cases were defined as those that required either hospitalization or resulted in death within 30 days of COVID-19 diagnosis.