Risk of Severe COVID Outcomes Higher in People Taking Some Medications That Affect Their Immune System


October 13, 2023 (Vancouver) People with arthritis often use medications that suppress or modulate their immune system. New Arthritis Research Canada’s study aimed to understand the impact of these medications on the severity of COVID-19 consequences.

This research used British Columbia’s administrative health data and studied participants 18 years or older who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were taking medications that affected their immune system, specifically immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory medications. The goal was to explore the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes for the participants.

The study found that people who took mycophenolate mofetil within three months before a COVID-19 infection had a 108% higher risk of hospitalization and a 152% greater risk of ICU admission than people who didn’t take this drug.

Additionally, people who took prednisone and other steroids within three months before a COVID-19 infection had a 63% greater risk of hospitalization, an 86% higher risk of ICU admission, and a 58% higher risk of death within 60 days of testing positive for COVID-19 than people who didn’t take this drug. This research study found that even small doses of prednisone raised the risk of hospitalization.

“These findings can guide healthcare decisions,” said Dr. Antonio Aviña-Zubieta, senior scientist at Arthritis Research Canada. “For example, prioritizing COVID booster vaccinations to protect people taking immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory medications who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes. This is especially important during the fall and winter when COVID-19 cases tend to rise.”

To learn more about this study, click here.



Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose life-changing research is creating a future where people living with arthritis have the knowledge and tools to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is now conducting arthritis research from coast to coast with centres in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and Nova Scotia and scientists affiliated with seven major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, McGill University, Université de Montréal, and Dalhousie University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at preventing arthritis, facilitating early diagnosis, finding new and better treatments, and improving quality of life.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Victoria Rubio
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Arthritis Research Canada
604-207-4010 or vrubio@arthritisresearch.ca

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