In this week’s rheumatology round-up, read about the latest updates on hydroxychloroquine and two arthritis drugs (tentatively) deemed effective in severe COVID-19, plus some news to raise a glass to (with a caveat).
A study found no correlation between hydroxychloroquine use and an increased risk for suicide, depression, or psychosis among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) when compared with sulfasalazine. Hydroxychloroquine has garnered significant media attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the drug was initially thought to be a possible treatment for the virus (more on that in a bit). Nevertheless, questions about COVID-19, treatments, and the vaccine have been abundant among the community of patients with rheumatic diseases. However, short- and long-term analyses both found no significant risks for hydroxychloroquine users when compared to sulfasalazine users in depression, suicide/suicidal ideation, and psychosis.
A trial investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19 has quietly closed enrollment after failure to recruit enough participants, according to a report. Henry Ford Health System’s Will Hydroxychloroquine Impede or Prevent COVID-19 (WHIP COVID-19) trial was a randomized, double-blinded study that sought to recruit 3,000 volunteers, but according to Bridge Michigan, only 624 people signed up. The landing page for the WHIP COVID-19 trial does not give a specific date for when enrollment was paused, but according to Bridge Michigan, it happened in late December, around Christmastime. The study was first announced on April 2, and enrollment opened on April 9, during a time that Detroit was experiencing a significant amount of COVID-19 cases.
RA drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab may improve outcomes in critically ill patients with COVID-19, according to a study. The study appeared in medRxiv and is a preprint that has not yet been peer reviewed. Patients with COVID-19 who were in the intensive care unit (ICU) and had started organ support within 24 hours were randomized to receive either tocilizumab (8mg/kg), sarilumab (400mg), or standard care (control). For patients with available data at the time of analysis, the in-hospital mortality rates were: tocilizumab, 28.0%; sarilumab, 22.2%; and control, 35.8%. The pooled mortality rate for the two treatment groups was 27.3%.
Alcohol consumption may be associated with a decreased risk for developing RA, according to a recent study, and among people who smoke, a known risk factor for RA, drinking alcohol may have a protective effect. But don’t make happy hour plans if cocktails aren’t your thing. Despite the results of the study, the researchers did not recommend that non-drinkers begin drinking alcohol to reduce their odds of developing RA. Instead, they called for future research to help unveil a better understanding of why this relationship was observed.
For the fourth year in a row, the Mediterranean diet has claimed the number one spot on U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the best diets. The Mediterranean diet ranked number one overall for 2021 and also garnered the first-place spots for best diets for healthy eating, easiest diets to follow, best diets for diabetes, best plant based diets, and best heart-healthy diets, USA Today reports. And according to a study, among its many benefits, it may lower the risk of RA among women who were ever-smokers. When assessing a large cohort of women, no correlation was observed between Mediterranean diet adherence score and risk of RA. But when the group was stratified by smoking status, a higher score in ever-smokers was correlated with a reduced risk for RA.