Rheumatologists the world over are joining forces to create adesigned to help both patients and providers learn from each other regarding management of rheumatologic diseases and risk of infection among patients who are commonly on chronic immunosuppressive medications.
The COVID-19 Global Rheumatology Alliance, a consortium supported by more than 50 major clinical societies and foundations, quickly grew from messages on social media platforms to a multinational group focused on the common goal of helping to “guide rheumatology clinicians in assessing and treating patients with rheumatologic disease and in evaluating the risk of infection in patients on immunosuppression.”
As of this writing, the rheumatology registry is still being assembled, and organizers are currently seeking approvals from various authorities. As of March 17, 2020, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the University of California, San Francisco, has determined that the registry is exempt from IRB approval requirements, a finding that should apply elsewhere in the United States, according to the registry website.
When it is fully up and running, clinicians will be able to report to the secure website on any and all cases of patients with rheumatologic disorders who present with COVID-19 of any severity, including patients with mild disease or asymptomatic patients who test positive.
“We are aiming for 5 to 10 minutes to input the data. We don’t want to drag them away from their clinical duties too much, but if clinicians are able to spare a few minutes to put in details about a patient, then that’s going to help build our knowledge and it’s going to help them with other patients,” said, associate professor of medicine at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and the chief architect of the registry.
The data will be deindentified, with no protected health care information required or included, and made available to the global rheumatology community, but the registry will not offer clinical advice, Dr. Robinson said in an interview.
“This is observational data, it’s not randomized, but our approach is that some data is better than no data,” he said.
He also cautioned that the data will need careful interpretation, because information about patients with mild symptoms may offer false reassurances about the severity or extent of infection.
“For example, the patients with severe cases may be in the ICU, and can’t tell their doctors that they’re on methotrexate, so you can see how we need to be really careful about the messages from that data and not misinterpret it,” he said.
The COVID-19 rheumatology registry was inspired by a similar effort in the gastroenterology community, the Surveillance Epidemiology of Coronavirus Under Research Exclusion () registry. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease are often treated with immunosuppressive biologic agents familiar to the rheumatology community, such as infliximab (Remicade and biosimilars) and adalimumab (Humira and biosimilars), and methotrexate.