New research suggests immunosuppressants do not increase the risk of worse COVID-19 outcomes.
Patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on immunosuppressive drugs have similar outcomes to patients with COVID-19 who are not on these therapies, according to a study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 1.89 million deaths and there have been over 86.7 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. There is an estimated 10 million immunocompromised people in the United States alone and immune suppression has been considered a potentially major risk fact for severe or fatal COVID-19. This is mainly due to the belief that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread unchecked in the body of immunosuppressed people.
Investigators analyzed the records of 2121 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 at John Hopkins Medicine medical system in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC, between March 4 and August 29, 2020. According to the study, investigators found that patients with COVID-19 who were on immunosuppressants did not have worse outcomes on average when compared with patients who were not.
According to investigators, approximately 5% of cases during the study period could be classified as patients who were immunosuppressed due to the use of either anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-rejection drugs. The study found that on average, hospital stays were not longer for patients on immunosuppressive drugs than those who were not.
"There has been concern that immunosuppression might be an important risk factor for severe COVID-19, but reassuringly we found no sign of that," said study first author Kayte Andersen, a PhD candidate in the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology, in a press release.
Investigators are currently undertaking a following-up analysis of a much larger data set, which will allow for more precise estimates. The results of the smaller study accounted for different factors between the groups, such as age, sex, and non-COVID-19 disease burden that may have skewed the analysis.
COVID-19 outcomes for patients on immunosuppressive drugs on par with non- immunosuppressed patients [News Release] January 7, 2021; Baltimore, MD. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-01/jhub-sb010721.php.