Severity of COVID-19 and survival in patients with rheumatic and inflammatory diseases: data from the French RMD COVID-19 cohort of 694 patients

Ann Rheum Dis. 2021 Apr;80(4):527-538. doi: 10.1136/annrheumdis-2020-218310. Epub 2020 Dec 2.


Objectives: There is little known about the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on patients with inflammatory rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (iRMD). We examined epidemiological characteristics associated with severe disease, then with death. We also compared mortality between patients hospitalised for COVID-19 with and without iRMD.

Methods: Individuals with suspected iRMD-COVID-19 were included in this French cohort. Logistic regression models adjusted for age and sex were used to estimate adjusted ORs and 95% CIs of severe COVID-19. The most significant clinically relevant factors were analysed by multivariable penalised logistic regression models, using a forward selection method. The death rate of hospitalised patients with iRMD-COVID-19 (moderate-severe) was compared with a subset of patients with non-iRMD-COVID-19 from a French hospital matched for age, sex, and comorbidities.

Results: Of 694 adults, 438 (63%) developed mild (not hospitalised), 169 (24%) moderate (hospitalised out of the intensive care unit (ICU) and 87 (13%) severe (patients in ICU/deceased) disease. In multivariable imputed analyses, the variables associated with severe infection were age (OR=1.08, 95% CI: 1.05-1.10), female gender (OR=0.45, 95% CI: 0.25-0.80), body mass index (OR=1.07, 95% CI: 1.02-1.12), hypertension (OR=1.86, 95% CI: 1.01-3.42), and use of corticosteroids (OR=1.97, 95% CI: 1.09-3.54), mycophenolate mofetil (OR=6.6, 95% CI: 1.47-29.62) and rituximab (OR=4.21, 95% CI: 1.61-10.98). Fifty-eight patients died (8% (total) and 23% (hospitalised)). Compared with 175 matched hospitalised patients with non-iRMD-COVID-19, the OR of mortality associated with hospitalised patients with iRMD-COVID-19 was 1.45 (95% CI: 0.87-2.42) (n=175 each group).

Conclusions: In the French RMD COVID-19 cohort, as already identified in the general population, older age, male gender, obesity, and hypertension were found to be associated with severe COVID-19. Patients with iRMD on corticosteroids, but not methotrexate, or tumour necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6 inhibitors, should be considered as more likely to develop severe COVID-19. Unlike common comorbidities such as obesity, and cardiovascular or lung diseases, the risk of death is not significantly increased in patients with iRMD.

Trial registration number: Registry (NCT04353609).

Keywords: autoimmune diseases; biological therapy; communicable diseases; glucocorticoids; imported; tumor necrosis factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Hypertension*
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / complications
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Rheumatic Diseases* / epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones

Associated data