EULAR calls on governments in Europe to recognize
the most vulnerable during COVID-19
In 19 March, 2020, Kilchberg, Switzerland - The European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology, EULAR, called for a number of measures to be considered in all efforts by the European Commission and by national governments and stakeholders across Europe in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This situation was immediately addressed and amended in order to reduce the enormous burden that it could place on already overstretched health care systems everywhere.
EULAR calls on all governments to:
Specifically identify patients whose therapies can affect their immune system
Calls on policy makers to ensure that there is flexibility for ensuring access to medical advice for RMD patients
Ensure access to medicines is guaranteed.
EULAR calls on all governments to specifically identify patients whose therapies can affect their immune system: While rheumatology staff are currently advising patients directly if they are in the high risk category, this is not explicitly reinforced by government guidelines across Europe. If an individual is on biologic therapy such as an anti-TNF or anti-IL 17A then the immune system could be lower than others in the population. This means symptoms may be worse if an infection or virus is contracted. Governments are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures.Current government advice at the national level, however, does not explicitly include those who are taking drugs which could affect their immune system. This would protect the lives of millions of individuals across Europe.
EULAR has released guidance for patients in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance addresses typical questions that patients with RMDs have and recommends protective measures both for patients and the health care workforce. More information and a video can be found here. The website page contains links to other useful sources of information: EULAR, together with its US counterpart, the American College of Rheumatology, is working on a repository of global information about COVID-19 for use by doctors, patients and health professionals.
Given the workload and, increasingly, the shortage of medical doctors and health professionals in hospitals and other facilities, EULAR calls on policy makers to ensure that there is flexibility for ensuring access to medical advice for RMD patients. This can for instance be done through online consultations and documentation, issuing of electronic prescriptions and other, virtual means. Work incapacity certificates and documentation relating to the renewal of prescriptions should be delivered by doctors without requiring a patient's personal presence, either at the doctor's practice or in a hospital. Alternatively, prescriptions should simply be renewed automatically.
Closure of borders: Access to medicines is fundamental for many RMD patients; given the high level of integration of pharmaceutical trade in Europe, disruption of distribution chains must be avoided at all cost. EULAR welcomes the European Commission's guidelines on health-related border management measures in the context of the COVID-19 emergency.