The goal of this study was to determine patients’ assessed risk of developing SARS-CoV-2 during the peak of the epidemic in New York City, based on their systemic rheumatic illness and medicines. Patients were interviewed by phone with the permission of their rheumatologists, and they were questioned about their perceived risk of getting SARS-CoV-2 given their rheumatic condition, as well as if medicines enhanced this risk. Patients completed questionnaires that assessed pharmaceutical beliefs as well as many aspects of physical and emotional well-being. Patients reported current medicines and rheumatologist-initiated medication adjustments during the pandemic, which were validated by medical records. A total of 122 individuals with various diagnoses were enrolled. Because of their rheumatic disease, 54% believed they were at “very much increased risk” of COVID-19, and 57% thought medicines placed them at “certainly” greater risk. In a multivariate analysis, the impression of “very much larger risk” was linked to a higher belief that rheumatic disease medicines were required, worse physical function, chronic pulmonary comorbidity, and increased anxiety. In a second model, White race, not using hydroxychloroquine, rheumatologists initiating medication changes, higher anxiety, and taking biologics and corticosteroids were related with the belief that medicines “certainly” increased risk.

Patients’ perceptions of an elevated risk of developing SARS-CoV-2 were linked to their rheumatic illness, medicines, comorbidity, and anxiety. Clinicians should be aware of their patients’ views and encourage self-management techniques that will reduce anxiety, reduce viral exposure, and improve systemic rheumatic disease outcomes.