designed to offer guidance to specialists and nonspecialists faced with tough choices about risks.
Some 87% reported that they were reducing the frequency of lab monitoring for some medications, while more than half said they had reached out to patients and their families to discuss the implications of continuing or stopping a drug.
Virtually all – 97% – said that the COVID-19 crisis had affected their decision to initiate immunosuppressive medications, with 84% saying the decision depended on a patient’s risk factors for contracting COVID-19 infection, and also the potential consequences of infection while treated, compared with the risks of not optimally treating the skin condition.
To develop a consensus-based guidance for clinicians, published online April 22 in Pediatric Dermatology,, professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, assembled a task force of pediatric dermatologists at academic institutions (the Pediatric Dermatology COVID-19 Response Task Force). Together with Sean Reynolds, MD, a pediatric dermatology fellow at UCSF and colleagues, they issued a survey to the 37 members of the task force with questions on how the pandemic has affected their prescribing decisions and certain therapies specifically. All the recipients responded.
The dermatologists were asked about conventional systemic and biologic medications. Most felt confident in continuing biologics, with 78% saying they would keep patients with no signs of COVID-19 exposure or infection on tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors. More than 90% of respondents said they would continue patients on dupilumab, as well as anti–interleukin (IL)–17, anti–IL-12/23, and anti–IL-23 therapies.
Responses varied more on approaches to the nonbiologic treatments. Fewer than half (46%) said they would continue patients without apparent COVID-19 exposure on systemic steroids, with another 46% saying it depended on the clinical context.
For other systemic therapies, respondents were more likely to want to continue their patients with no signs or symptoms of COVID-19 on methotrexate and apremilast (78% and 83%, respectively) than others (mycophenolate mofetil, azathioprine, cyclosporine, and JAK inhibitors), which saw between 50% and 60% support in the survey.
Patients on any immunosuppressive medications with likely exposure to COVID-19 or who test positive for the virus should be temporarily taken off their medications, the majority concurred. Exceptions were for systemic steroids, which must be tapered. And a significant minority of the dermatologists said that they would continue apremilast or dupilumab (24% and 16%, respectively) in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 infection.
In an interview, Dr. Cordoro commented that, even in normal times, most systemic or biological immunosuppressive treatments are used off-label by pediatric dermatologists. “There’s no way this could have been an evidence-based document, as we didn’t have the data to drive this. Many of the medications have been tested in children but not necessarily for dermatologic indications; some are chemotherapy agents or drugs used in rheumatologic diseases.”
The COVID-19 pandemic complicated an already difficult decision-making process, she said.
The researchers cautioned against attempting to make decisions about medications based on data on other infections from clinical trials. “Infection data from standard infections that were identified and watched for in clinical trials really still has no bearing on COVID-19 because it’s such a different virus,” Dr. Cordoro said.
And while some immunosuppressive medications could potentially attenuate a SARS-CoV-2–induced cytokine storm, “we certainly don’t assume this is necessarily going to help.”
The authors advised that physicians anxious about initiating an immunosuppressive treatment should take into consideration whether early intervention could “prevent permanent physical impairment or disfigurement” in diseases such as erythrodermic pustular psoriasis or rapidly progressive linear morphea.
Other diseases, such as atopic dermatitis, “may be acceptably, though not optimally, managed with topical and other home-based therapeutic options” during the pandemic, they wrote.
Dr. Cordoro commented that, given how fast new findings are emerging from the pandemic, the guidance on medications could change. “We will know so much more 3 months from now,” she said. And while there are no formal plans to reissue the survey, “we’re maintaining communication and will have some kind of follow up” with the academic dermatologists.
“If we recognize any signals that are counter to what we say in this work we will immediately let people know,” she said.
The researchers received no outside funding for their study. Of the study’s 24 coauthors, nine disclosed financial relationships with industry.
SOURCE: Add the first auSOURCE: Reynolds et al. Pediatr Dermatol. 2020. .