Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in the Era of COVID-19: Reviewing the Effects of COVID-19 on RA Patients and on the Utilization of Drugs Used to Treat RA
Since its onset in December 2019, COVID-19 has produced heightened fear among those with certain underlying medical conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Consequently, the relationships among COVID-19 and RA have been increasingly studied, necessitating a review that details the current associations between the two. Most preliminary studies have found that, while RA patients are immunocompromised and often take immunosuppressive medications, they are not more prone to COVID-19, nor do they experience more severe outcomes than the general population. Despite this, further studies have indicated that higher RA disease activity, as well as the presence of various comorbidities that are commonly associated with RA, may increase the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. Additional research isstill necessary to refine these findings, however, and to explore the implications of COVID-19 upon RA onset and severity, as conflicting data exists on the subject. Although there seems to be consensus that COVID-19 could induce RA flares, there is disagreement that it could completely inflict RA upon an individual. Nevertheless, COVID-19 has assuredly influenced RA treatment. Not only has it required many patients to transition to virtual appointments, but it has also posed challenges to drug utilization. Namely, while there has been confusion surrounding whether or not RA patients should continue with their medications amid this time, it has simultaneously been proposed that some of these same medications could combat the effects of COVID-19. As such, outlining the connections between COVID-19 and RA better equips healthcare providers and patients, and provides further insight into both diseases.