P631 Impact of Covid-19 pandemic on initiation of immunosuppressive treatment in immune-mediated diseases. -A nationwide, retrospective study-

Kutschera, M.(1);Ritschl, V.(2);Berthold, R.(3);Stamm, T.(2);Kiener, H.(4);Maier, H.(5);Reinisch, W.(1);Benka, B.(6);Novacek, G.(1);

(1)Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine III- Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria;(2)Institute of Outcomes Research, Center for Medical Statistics- Informatics and Intelligent Systems- Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria;(3)Austrian Health Insurance Fund, Austrian Health Insurance Fund, Eisenstadt, Austria;(4)Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine III- Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria;(5)Department of Dermatology, Department of Dermatology- Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria;(6)Division of Public Health, Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety Ltd., Vienna, Austria;


Immunosuppressive and biological medications are a mainstay in the treatment of immune-mediated diseases, such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), rheumatic diseases, and psoriasis. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused concerns over the safety of these drugs pertaining to risk and severity of infection with SARS-CoV2. Moreover, pandemic mitigation strategies may negatively impacted treatment start with immunosuppressive and biological treatment fostering worse long-term disease outcomes. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on new starts of immunosuppressive and biological treatment in Austria. 


We conducted a retrospective analysis with a 4-year observation period from 2017 to 2020 on real-world data on prescriptions for immune-mediated diseases of the Austrian health insurance funds covering 98% of the Austrian population. Data from all patients with incident biologic or conventional immunosuppressive treatment (Table 1) were included. Incidence of biologic (including small molecules) and immunosuppressive therapy was defined as all first prescriptions of one of the listed substances from 2017. The incidence rate for biologic and immunosuppressive treatments was recorded monthly in 2020 and compared with the three previous years (2017 – 2019). Table 1: Examined biologics / immunosuppressant agents:


During the first lockdown in Austria in spring 2020 (week 12 – week 20), there was a significant decrease in the overall starts of biologic (including small molecules) and immunosuppressive treatments (both p<0.0001), especially in April (Figure 1 and 2). After that lockdown, new starts of immunosuppressive and biological treatments rapidly re-achieved pre-lockdown levels despite higher infection rates with SARS-CoV-2 and subsequent lockdown periods (Figure 3). Independent from the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed a continuous increase of biological medication (bDMARDs) and small molecules (p<0.0001) and a decrease of conventional immunosuppressive medications (cDMARDS) (p<0.0120) during all observed years (Figure 1 and 2) 


In patients with immune-mediated diseases in Austria the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant decrease of newly started immunosuppressive and biological treatments only during the first lock-down. Over the last four years, we can observe a continuous increase of small molecules and biological medication as well as a continuous decrease of conventional immunosuppressive medication.