Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2020 Dec 3;15(1):341. doi: 10.1186/s13023-020-01619-x.
The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused disruption in all aspects of daily life, including the management and treatment of rare inherited metabolic disorders (IMDs). To perform a preliminary assessment of the incidence of COVID-19 in IMD patients and the impact of the coronavirus emergency on the rare metabolic community between March and April 2020, the European Reference Network for Hereditary Metabolic Diseases (MetabERN) has performed two surveys: one directed to patients’ organizations (PO) and one directed to healthcare providers (HCPs). The COVID-19 incidence in the population of rare metabolic patients was lower than that of the general European population (72.9 × 100,000 vs. 117 × 100,000). However, patients experienced extensive disruption of care, with the majority of appointments and treatments cancelled, reduced, or postponed. Almost all HCPs (90%) were able to substitute face-to-face visits with telemedicine, about half of patients facing treatment changes switched from hospital to home therapy, and a quarter reported difficulties in getting their medicines. During the first weeks of emergency, when patients and families lacked relevant information, most HCPs contacted their patients to provide them with support and information. Since IMD patients require constant follow-up and treatment adjustments to control their disease and avoid degradation of their condition, the results of our surveys are relevant for national health systems in order to ensure appropriate care for IMD patients. They highlight strong links in an interconnected community of HCPs and PO, who are able to work quickly and effectively together to support and protect fragile persons during crisis. However, additional studies are needed to better appreciate the actual impact of COVID-19 on IMD patients’ health and the mid- and long-term effects of the pandemic on their wellbeing.