COVID-19 and Ankylosing Spondylitis: What to Do About Your Medicine

If you’re using biologics for your AS, here’s what you should know.

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Many people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) find relief from over-the-counter pain relievers, but some rely on biologics like TNF inhibitors. You might be wondering if these affect your COVID-19 risk, and how you should be managing ankylosing spondylitis medicines during COVID-19.

To put it simply, there are more benefits to staying on your AS medicines during the pandemic than going off them. Research is ongoing, but here’s what doctors know so far.

How AS Medicines Work

TNF (tumor necrosis factor) inhibitors are a type of biologic that can be beneficial for some people with ankylosing spondylitis. These medications target TNF, a cytokine that fuels inflammation. By inhibiting TNF, this medicine reduces symptoms (like back pain, stiffness, and fatigue) and helps prevent long-term damage and fusion in the spine.

In general, biologics like TNF inhibitors *can* increase the risk of other infections. That’s why it’s important to know your risk level when it comes to COVID-19.

Are You at Risk?

Luckily, the current research suggests that biologics for AS do *not* significantly increase your risk of getting COVID-19. Additionally, they do not appear to increase the risk of complications from COVID-19.

In fact, not taking your prescribed biologics could worsen your risk. At this point, it appears that people with better control of their underlying conditions, like ankylosing spondylitis, tend to have a lower risk of COVID-19 complications. That’s why it’s crucial and beneficial to stick with your AS treatment regimen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That said, your treatment regimen during the pandemic should be a shared decision between you and your doctor. You may have unique factors that require a different approach.

Staying Connected During the Pandemic

Let’s be honest: Staying on top of your prescriptions and doctor appointments can be more challenging than ever during the pandemic. You might be self-isolating at home, or helping kids who are learning remotely.

Thankfully, telehealth has emerged as a great tool during the pandemic. You can use telehealth options to follow-up with your doctor virtually while staying safe at home. Your doctor can even refill your prescriptions virtually. This can also help you stay stocked with your AS medicines to help you keep the disease under control.

If you’re concerned about managing ankylosing spondylitis medications during COVID-19, or about managing your COVID-19 risk in general, talk to your doctor. They can help you make a personalized plan to maintain your best health.