Antirheumatic Disease Therapies for the Treatment of COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Arthritis Rheumatol. 2020 Aug 2;10.1002/art.41469. doi: 10.1002/art.41469. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Antirheumatic disease therapies have been used to treat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its complications. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to describe the current evidence.

Methods: A search of published and preprint databases in all languages was performed. Included studies described one or more relevant clinical outcomes in five or more people who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 and were treated with antirheumatic disease therapy between 01/01/2019 and 05/29/2020. Pairs of reviewers screened articles and extracted data and assessed risk of bias. A meta-analysis of effect sizes using the random-effects models was performed when possible.

Results: The search identified 3,935 articles, of which 45 were included (4 randomized controlled trials, 29 cohort studies, and 12 case series). All studies evaluated hospitalized patients and 29 out of 45 had been published in a peer-reviewed journal. In a meta-analysis of three cohort studies with a low risk of bias, hydroxychloroquine use was not significantly associated with mortality (pooled hazard ratio (HR) 1.41, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.83-2.42). In a meta-analysis of two cohort studies with some concerns/high risk of bias, anakinra use was associated with lower mortality (pooled HR 0.2, 95% CI 0.1-0.4). Evidence was inconclusive with regard to other antirheumatic disease therapies and the majority of other studies had a high risk of bias.

Conclusion: In this systematic review and meta-analysis, hydroxychloroquine use was not associated with benefit or harm with regard to COVID-19 mortality. The evidence supporting the effect of other antirheumatic disease therapies in COVID-19 is currently inconclusive.

Keywords: Antirheumatic medications; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus.