Objective: The aim of the study was to detect the frequency and course of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infection among our rheumatology outpatients and to investigate how patient follow-up differed during Covid-19 pandemic in a tertiary University Hospital in the capital of Turkey.
Patients and method: Patients with inflammatory rheumatic diseases (IRDs) registered in our rheumatology clinic were assessed during their routine outpatient follow-up control or contacted via phone between July and December 2020. Patients' demographics, diagnosis, medication, comorbidities, frequency of going outside during the pandemic, work status, whether patients could attend their routine follow-up, treatment changes, access to drugs during the pandemic, and the incidence of Covid-19 infection were collected.
Results: A total of 320 patients with IRD were analysed; 114 (35.6%) patients were treated with conventional synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (csDMARDs) (methotrexate/leflunomide/sulfasalazine), 93 (29.1%) patients with biologic DMARDs (bDMARDs), 113 (35.3%) patients with glucocorticoids, and 103 (32.2%) patients with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). A total of 15.9% of patients on HCQ experienced problems in medication supply. Only 87 (27.2%) patients presented for their routine follow-up appointment, and 38 (11.9%) of the patients changed their treatment without professional health advice. While 53 (57%) patients on biological agents continued their treatment, 31 patients (33.3%) interrupted the treatment with doctor's recommendation and 9 patients (9.6%) on their initiative, and 23 of these 31 patients had to restart treatment because of disease activation. The nasopharyngeal swab collected from 30 patients with a suspected Covid-19 contact but without any symptoms was negative. In total, there were 33 patients diagnosed with Covid-19; none of whom had severe respiratory complications or death.
Conclusions: Many patients with rheumatic diseases are left without disease monitoring during the pandemic. There was no increased risk of severe Covid-19 infection among patients with IRD.
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.