The European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR) has called for equal access to anti-inflammatory drugs after increased demand to treat Covid-19 has led to a European-wide shortage.

It has appealed to manufacturers to rapidly upscale output before the shortage impacts the lives and livelihoods of Europeans with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.

Professor Annamaria Iagnocco, President of EULAR, said more and more EU member states are experiencing shortages of essential anti-inflammatory drugs and that certain manufacturers have highlighted the prospect of global shortages in the upcoming months. 

She added: "These are essential medications for many people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis and vasculitis that not only help to mitigate against disability, and the social and employment impacts associated with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases, but the development of common co-morbidities like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  

"A balanced approach is essential to ensure that we meet the ongoing pandemic imperatives and respect the needs of those already benefiting already from the use of this medicine, for some of whom it is an essential medication.” 

Covid-19 and anti-inflammatory drugs

EULAR said that for many Covid-19 patients, an overly vigorous response creates a severe systemic inflammatory state – the so-called cytokine storm – characterised by the creation of lots of inflammatory products and that can result in serious lung damage and death. This is how Covid-19 tends to kill. 

When it became obvious that, in addition to the direct impact of the disease, Covid-19 was causing deaths through hyper-inflammatory states very similar to rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases, rheumatology health professionals came to the fore.

During the pandemic, many anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant RMD drugs have been repurposed to treat patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms, particularly glucocorticoids.