People taking some immune-affecting medications, including mycophenolate mofetil and prednisone, face significantly higher risks of severe COVID-19 outcomes, reveals a new study by Arthritis Research Canada.

Researchers of the new study, published in ARC Open Rheumatology, aimed to understand the impact of medications that suppress or modulate the immune system on the severity of COVID-19 consequences.

This research used British Columbia’s administrative health data and studied participants 18 years or older who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were taking medications that affected their immune system, specifically immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory medications. The goal was to explore the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes for the participants.

The study found that people who took mycophenolate mofetil within three months before a COVID-19 infection had a 108% higher risk of hospitalization and a 152% greater risk of ICU admission than people who didn’t take this drug.

Additionally, people who took prednisone and other steroids within three months before a COVID-19 infection had a 63% greater risk of hospitalization, an 86% higher risk of ICU admission, and a 58% higher risk of death within 60 days of testing positive for COVID-19 than people who didn’t take this drug. This research study found that even small doses of prednisone raised the risk of hospitalization.

“These findings can guide healthcare decisions, for example, prioritizing COVID booster vaccinations to protect people taking immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory medications who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes,” says Antonio Aviña-Zubieta, MD, PhD, senior scientist at Arthritis Research Canada, in a release. “This is especially important during the fall and winter when COVID-19 cases tend to rise.”

Photo 168173902 © Sherry Young