Concerns, healthcare use, and treatment interruptions in patients with common autoimmune rheumatic diseases during the COVID-19 pandemic

Academic Article


  • Objective. To assess concerns and healthcare-related behaviors of patients with autoimmune rheumatic diseases during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Methods. Adults from the United States with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) from the ArthritisPower Patient-Powered Research Network and CreakyJoints patient community completed surveys. Concerns and behaviors were compared among patients with different autoimmune conditions, disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) use, and geographic measures of urban status, income, education, and COVID-19 activity. Results. Among 1517 participants (925 RA, 299 PsA, 185 AS, 108 SLE), mean age was 55.1 years, 88.3% were female, and 89.5% were White. COVID-19 concerns were similar across the country and were higher in biologic users (P < 0.001). Avoidance of doctor’s office visits (56.6%) or laboratory testing (42.3%) and use of telehealth (29.5%) were more common in urban areas. Among participants receiving a DMARD without COVID-19 or other respiratory illness, 14.9% stopped a DMARD, with 78.7% of DMARD interruptions not recommended by a physician. DMARD stopping was more common in participants with lower socioeconomic status (SES) and in participants who avoided an office visit (OR 1.46, 95% CI 1.04–2.04) or reported lack of telehealth availability OR 2.26 (95% CI 1.25–4.08). Conclusion. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients with RA, PsA, AS, and SLE frequently avoided office visits and laboratory testing. DMARD interruptions commonly occurred without the advice of a physician and were associated with SES, office visits, and telehealth availability, highlighting the need for adequate healthcare access and attention to vulnerable populations during the pandemic.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • George MD; Venkatachalam S; Banerjee S; Baker JF; Merkel PA; Gavigan K; Curtis D; Danila MI; Curtis JR; Nowell WB
  • Start Page

  • 603
  • End Page

  • 607
  • Volume

  • 48
  • Issue

  • 4