Treatment in the COVID era
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions in people’s minds about whether multiple sclerosis makes it more likely for a person to contract the CoV-2 virus or puts them at risk of severe complications. At the best of times, people with MS are more likely to develop infections because of subtle changes in their immune response (Castelo-Branco and colleagues. Mult Scler Relat Disord 2020;45:102420). So where does that leave people now, in the worst of times?
The good news is that people with MS generally do not appear to have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 (Zabalza and colleagues. ECTRIMS 2020; LB1168). That may be due in part to people with MS feeling especially vulnerable – and taking the appropriate measures to protect themselves against illness. For example, a UK survey found that almost one-half of the people with MS were self-isolating (Garjani and colleagues. ECTRIMS 2020; SS02.01). Moreover, people with more severe disability and those taking high-potency disease-modifying therapies (DMT) for their MS – two groups at risk – were more likely to be avoiding social contact.
One of the terrible ironies of the pandemic is that many people are now afraid that the DMTs they take to help their MS will hurt them with COVID. Recent surveys have found that two-thirds of people believe that their DMT increases their risk of contracting COVID, one-third have skipped doses, and about one-half have postponed going for tests and procedures (Zhang and colleagues. ECTRIMS 2020; LB1149. Yetkin and colleagues. ECTRIMS 2020; LB1159). These findings suggest that many people are deeply concerned about the medications they’re taking.
In this series, we’ll look at three treatment-related issues to consider in the COVID era: what do medications do to the immune system; how often will you need to go to a clinic or hospital because of your drug; and what will happen when a COVID vaccine becomes available?
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