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How do arthritis patients react to COVID-19?

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

We’ve launched an urgent research project
and we need your help

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 research studies testing whether chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine – drugs commonly used by people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus – are effective at treating COVID-19.

With a team of Canadian researchers, we've launched a much needed, large-scale, well-designed research project to examine the connections between these drugs and COVID-19 and to determine what it means for people with arthritis, who have immune systems that leave them vulnerable to infections.

The research could save the lives of people with and without arthritis in Canada and around the world.

The opportunity

We are urgently raising funds to support this project and other research like it that focuses on the body’s internal defense mechanisms.

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

Arthritis patients, at the best of times, are vulnerable to infections such as COVID-19. This research presents a unique and urgent opportunity for our national team of investigators to help people with arthritis, but also to use what we learn to help Canadians in general and people worldwide."
~ Dr. Paul R. Fortin, lead researcher
Photography of Dr. Fortin

The research

The researchers – who come from leading hospitals and universities across the country – will follow 3,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus over the next two years to determine if those who are currently taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat their arthritis symptoms are affected differently by the novel coronavirus (and other infections like it), compared to those not taking the drugs.

This research will create a library of biological samples that will also be used to test emerging questions like: How do genetic differences in people impact the severity of disease? And, how will compromised immune systems react to a new vaccine?

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

Simply put, Canadian researchers can conduct this research quickly, safely, accurately and collaboratively across the country – without adding any new strain to the supplies of these drugs, as these patients are already taking them.

The researchers need to start soon.

Why the research matters

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

  1. Early findings from this study could help demonstrate the impact of chloroquine and/or hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 before a vaccine becomes available, meaning we could save lives sooner.
  2. The results of this research could also speed up our understanding of how other drugs affect the immune system and how our bodies will respond to a new vaccine.
  3. And, it will help us be more prepared when (and if) the next pandemic with a similar virus occurs.

The initiative will also accelerate and invest in 13 immune system projects currently underway with $1.4 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.