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Concerns, Healthcare Use, and Treatment Interruptions in Patients With Common Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

George MD, Venkatachalam S, Banerjee S, Baker JF, Merkel PA, Gavigan K, Curtis D, Danila MI, Curtis JR, Nowell WB. Concerns, Healthcare Use, and Treatment Interruptions in Patients With Common Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Journal of rheumatology. 2021 Apr 1; 48(4):603-607.

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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 ( < 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.

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