Introduction: Patients with chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases (CIRD) who receive intravenous therapy requiring hospitalization are likely to be more affected than those with receiving oral therapy during COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to investigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on adherence to treatment in patients with CIRD receiving intravenous treatments.
Methods: We evaluated patients with CIRD who were treated with intravenous immunosuppressive therapy such as rituximab (RTX), cyclophosphamide (CTX), infliximab (IFX), tocilizumab (TCZ) and abatacept (ABA) in our inpatient rheumatology clinic. The patientsʼ medical treatment compliance and clinical follow-up were evaluated. Treatment discontinuation was decided according to postponement of at least one dose and discontinuation of CIRD treatments. Demographics and clinical characteristics were compared between treatment-incompliant (TI) and treatment-compliant (TC) groups.
Results: A total of 181 CIRD patients were enrolled. Rheumatoid arthritis was the most common disease requiring intravenous immunosuppressive treatment followed by axial spondyloarthritis and Behçet’s disease. Joint involvement was the most common followed by lung and kidney involvements. Rituximab was the most widely used intravenous immunosuppressive treatment for the CIRD. 34% patients have postponed at least one dose of their intravenous CIRD treatment and 25% discontinued. Fear of COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 positivity were the most common reasons. The TI group had a longer disease duration and a higher frequency of inflammatory arthritis than the TC group (p=0.013 and p=0.044, respectively).
Conclusions: Fear of COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 positivity seemed to be the major reasons for discontinuing/postponing intravenous treatments in CIRD patients. Patients with long disease duration and less systemic involvement may be more prone to discontinuing their treatments.