The use of certain disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) such as rituximab and Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), which lower the number of a patient’s immune B-cells, may increase the odds of developing a more severe COVID-19 disease course for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), a study suggests.
The study, which includes data from the largest group of patients with MS and COVID-19 currently available worldwide, found that the use of these two DMTs was associated with a higher rate of hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions, and ventilatory support.
Study findings were presented at MSVirtual2020 by Steve Simpson-Yap, PhD, from the University of Melbourne, in Australia, in a late-breaking presentation on Sept. 26, titled “First results of the COVID-19 in MS Global Data Sharing Initiative suggest anti-CD20 DMTs are associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes.”
People with multiple sclerosis are thought to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, mainly due to the extensive and prolonged use of DMTs, which comprise a group of medications that suppress the activity of the immune system to reduce inflammation and the severity of MS symptoms.
Previous studies have suggested that those who are older, have higher disability, and progressive MS are more likely to develop a severe form of COVID-19. However, the impact of DMTs on the course of the disease is still unclear.
At MSVirtual2020, Simpson-Yap presented the first data from the COVID-19 and MS Global Data Sharing Initiative, an international collaboration that aims to gather information on the impact of COVID-19 on MS patients, with a goal of improving their healthcare during the pandemic. This initiative is being led by the MS International Federation and the MS Data Alliance, along with their partners.
This first analysis, which was focused on assessing the impact different DMTs might have on the severity of COVID-19 in MS patients, was based on clinician-reported data from 1,540 individuals with MS that were obtained from 21 countries worldwide.
Statistical analyses were used to evaluate possible relationships between patient characteristics, including the use of certain types of DMTs, and the rate of hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, the need for ventilator support, and death.
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