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Clinical features and outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with rheumatic diseases treated with biological and synthetic targeted therapies
  1. Carlos Sanchez-Piedra1,
  2. Cesar Diaz-Torne2,
  3. Javier Manero3,
  4. José M Pego-Reigosa4,
  5. Íñigo Rúa-Figueroa5,
  6. Miguel A Gonzalez-Gay6,
  7. Juan Gomez-Reino7,
  8. Jose M Alvaro-Gracia8
  9. On behalf of the BIOBADASER study group
  1. 1 Research Unit, Sociedad Española de Reumatologia, Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  2. 2 Rheumatology, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Barcelona, Spain
  3. 3 Rheumatology, Hospital Universitario Miguel Servet, Zaragoza, Aragón, Spain
  4. 4 Rheumatology, Complejo Hospitalario de Vigo Hospital Xeral, Vigo, Galicia, Spain
  5. 5 Rheumatology, Hospital Universitario Insulsar Gran Canaria Doctor Negrin, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
  6. 6 Rheumatology, Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla Servicio de Medicina Interna, Santander, Cantabria, Spain
  7. 7 Complejo Hospitalario Universitario de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain
  8. 8 Rheumatology, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, Madrid, Spain
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jose M Alvaro-Gracia, Rheumatology, Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Marañón, 28007 Madrid, Spain; jalvarogracia{at}

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From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 4.7 million cases have been detected in the world, Spain being one of the countries hardest hit by the SARS-CoV-2.1 The role of the immune system and immunomodulatory therapies in the evolution of this infection is still controversial.2 The study of patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), spondyloarthropathies (SpA) or systemic lupus erythematosus, treated with immunomodulatory therapies is essential to understand the prognosis of COVID-19 in this specific population and to the management of these patients.

BIOBADASER is a multicentre prospective observational registry promoted by the Spanish Society of Rheumatology (SER) and supported by the Spanish Agency of Drugs and Medical Devices. It is aimed at assessing safety in patients with RMDs starting treatment with any biological (bDMARD) or targeted synthetic disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (tsDMARD). More than 6600 patients are prospectively followed up in BIOBADASER 3.0.

This report describes the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients with COVID-19 in BIOBADASER. We have identified 41 patients with RMDs treated with bDMARD and tsDMARD diagnosed of COVID-19 at 15 hospitals in the registry. Thirty-one patients were diagnosed because positive PCR test for SARS-CoV-2, and 10 patients because a highly compatible clinical picture and close contact with confirmed positive cases. Table 1 shows baseline characteristics of the patients. Twenty-five (61.0%) patients were female and 16 (39,0%) male, with a mean age of 59.4 years. They had long-standing (12.8 years) refractory (three previous bDMARD/tsDMARDs) diseases with 5.7 years of bDMARD/tsDMARD therapy duration. Twenty-one patients (51.2%) had RA. Comorbidities included hypertension (36.6%), past or current smoker (36.8%), diabetes (9.8%) and high body mass index (BMI) (27.7 (5.6) kg/m2—mean (SD)). Eighteen patients (43.9%) were using TNF inhibitors, seven JAK inhibitors (17.1%, 9.8% baricitinib and 7.3% tofacitinib) and five (12.2%) IL-6 inhibitors. Seventeen (41.5%) patients were using methotrexate and four (9,8%) hydroxychloroquine.

Table 1

Clinical features and treatments in patients with rheumatic diseases on targeted therapies with the diagnosis of COVID-19

Three patients died (7.3%); a 63-year-old RA male on anakinra—plus prednisone 5 mg/day—(comorbidities: smoker, BMI 34.6); a 56-year-old SpA female on secukinumab—no glucocorticoids—(past smoker, BMI 28.4) and a 91-year-old vasculitis female on rituximab—plus prednisone 5 mg/day—(hypertension). Hospitalisation was required in 28 patients (68.3%) and intensive care unit (ICU) admission in 6. Thirty-five (85.4%) patients are fully recovered at the moment of this analysis, and three patients are still hospitalised, none in ICU.

Data on COVID-19 in patients with RMDs is still scarce.3–6 Because of the rapid evolution of the pandemic, it is important to accrue information on the clinical course of rheumatic patients on bDMARD/tsDMARDs developing COVID-19. The reduced number of patients in our study limits the possibility of drawing solid conclusions. However, these findings point in the direction that COVID-19 course and mortality in patients with RMDs treated with b/tsDMARD do not differ from the general population (12.0% mortality rate and hospitalisation rate 53.6% by COVID-19 in Spain1). Of interest, these high mortality and hospitalisation rates are likely due to a diagnostic bias with PCR testing reserved for the most symptomatic patients, as suggested by a recent (unpublished) report by the Spanish Ministry of Health showing a prevalence of IgG seroconversion to SARS-Cov-2 of 5% in Spain. That is 10 times greater than the PCR confirmed cases (1). The present data, in addition to previous publications, is crucial to clarify the risks of patients with rheumatic diseases and their immunosuppressive medications. Doubtlessness, additional studies are still needed. To this end, the SER is prospectively collecting information on COVID-19 in three registries (BIOBADASER, RELESSER and CARMA) in more than 9000 patients with rheumatic diseases.



  • Handling editor Josef S Smolen

  • Twitter @cesardiaztorne

  • Collaborators BIOBADASER study group: Dra. Maria Colazo (Hospital de Burgos), Dra Cristina Bohórquez (Hospital Universitario Príncipe de Asturias), Dr Javier del Pino (Hospital Universitario de Salamanca), Dra Paloma Vela-Casasempere (Hospital General Universitario de Alicante), Dra Sagrario Bustabad (Hospital de Canarias), Dr Manuel Pombo-Suarez (Hospital Universitario de Santiago), Dr José Campos (Hospital Universitario Puerta de Hierro), Dra Raquel Martín-Domenech (Hospital General Universitario de Elda), Dra Cristina Campos-Fernandez (Hospital General Universitario de Valencia), Dra Rosa Roselló (Hospital San Jorge Huesca), Dra Lourdes Mateo (Hospital Universitario Germans Trias i Pujol).

  • Contributors CS-P and JA-G contributed to the design of the project interpretation and analysis of the data and writing of the manuscript. D-TC, JM and JG-R contributed to the collection of data, interpretation and analysis of the data and review of the manuscript. JMP-R, IR-F and MAG-G contributed to the interpretation of the data and review of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.