The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to our entire global population. No one is spared the anxieties of the uncertainty we face. We recognize that our Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients are challenged with the added concern of whether they are at increased risk of contracting the virus, or at increased risk of having a more severe disease course.
At present, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation has issued guidance for patients with inflammatory bowel disease. To summarize:
- IBD patients should be meticulous about social distancing, minimizing outings for any purpose that are not absolutely vital, frequent hand washing, avoiding touching their nose, eyes, or mouth, and frequent disinfecting of surfaces.
- Medications that contain mesalamine do not affect the body’s natural immunity and should be continued.
- Steroids such as prednisone do affect the immune system, but it should be a clinical decision whether to continue based on the medical need. It can be dangerous to abruptly discontinue steroids making it vitally important that any of our patients on steroids reach out to their Gastro Health physician to discuss how to optimally manage their regimen.
- Immunomodulators (6MP, 6-Mercaptopurine, Azathioprine, Imuran), methotrexate, and Tofacitinib (Xeljanz) should be continued.
- Biologics include any medications for Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis that are given by injection or given intravenously and should be continued. Even temporarily discontinuing these medications can diminish or eliminate their benefit. It is important that patients who are on biologics communicate with their Gastro Health provider if adjustments to medications need to be considered.
These guidelines are based on expert opinion and naturally can change as more is learned. A global registry of patients with IBD who have contracted COVID-19 exists and is being monitored closely.
In this time of uncertainty, you can take comfort in the fact that your Gastro Health physician is invested in making sure that you benefit from the latest science-based information to guide you in this trying time.