Can common arthritis drugs reduce the risk of COVID-19?

Last updated: 04-05-2020

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Can common arthritis drugs reduce the risk of COVID-19?

The importance of our immune system in maintaining health and wellness is on top of everyone’s mind.

You may have heard about some early evidence showing that drugs commonly used by people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus – chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine – might lower the risk of getting COVID-19 and other related infections.

The evidence about these drugs is promising, but we urgently need more research to discover the connections between these drugs and coronavirus and to determine what it means for people with arthritis. 

A team of Canadian researchers is uniquely positioned to launch this research. And they are anxious to get going.

But we need your help to get them started.

We need to raise $300,000 to get the research off the ground today, and to support other research like it that focuses on the body’s internal defense mechanisms. 

If early evidence about these drugs is true, it could save the lives of people with and without arthritis in Canada and around the world. 

We can learn a lot from arthritis patients already taking these medications.

The researchers – who come from leading hospitals and universities across the country – will follow 2,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus to determine if those who are currently taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat their arthritis symptoms are affected differently by coronavirus than those who are not taking the drugs.

If those taking the drugs have lower rates of infection or experience less severe disease, we will know that chloroquine and/or hydroxychloroquine do in fact lower the risk of getting or expressing the COVID-19 virus – and possibly other infections like it.

Canada is uniquely suited to launch this research because the country is already home to several established research studies that follow people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and we already have a bank of blood samples from them. And because the blood samples from these patients were collected last year – before the COVID-19 coronavirus emerged – the researchers have a solid baseline to be able to see who becomes infected with the virus and how the drugs affect the disease. 

Simply put, Canadian researchers can conduct this research quickly, accurately and collaboratively across the country. 

The researchers need to start soon.

Once the current wave of COVID-19 infections passes, we can expect at least a second if not third wave of the disease. And, a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 is at least one year away. 

The initiative will also accelerate and invest in 12 immune system projects currently underway with $1.5 million in Arthritis Society funding. This research is critical to uncovering the molecular markers involved in arthritis and how the immune system responds under stress.

This uniquely Canadian study could benefit people both with and without arthritis – in Canada and around the world. 

Canadians can feel proud to be contributing to research of this calibre, with long-lasting worldwide impact. And our leadership will inspire others to follow suit in supporting this work. 

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