Holding Mycophenolate Helps Immune Response to COVID Vaccination

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Withholding mycophenolate around the time of vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 proved safe and augmented the humoral response to vaccination among a group of patients at one center who were taking the immunosuppressive drug for a variety of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs).

Previous studies have shown that use of mycophenolate attenuates the humoral response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, and the most up-to-date recommendations from the American College of Rheumatology on SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in patients with RMDs advise that mycophenolate should be withheld for a week after receiving the vaccine.

To understand better how withholding mycophenolate would affect immune response to SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, rheumatology fellow Caoilfhionn M. Connolly, MD, and coauthors at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, described in their report – published online Sept. 23, 2021, in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases – how they compared the immune responses to vaccination in 24 patients who withheld mycophenolate and 171 patients who did not stop taking it. All but 1 of the 24 patients who withheld mycophenolate were female, with a median age of 51 years, and they had mostly systemic lupus erythematosus (6 patients), myositis (5), scleroderma (4), or overlap connective tissue disease (4). Three patients received the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine; all others received either the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA series.

At a median of 32 days after vaccination, all but two of the patients (92%) who withheld mycophenolate had detectable antibodies against the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, compared with 65% of those who continued the drug (P=.01). This calculated to patients who withheld the drug as having nearly sixfold higher odds for a positive antibody response (odds ratio, 5.8; 95% CI, 1.3-25.5; P=.02). The association remained statistically significant in an logistic regression analysis that was adjusted for age, sex, race, vaccine type, and use of rituximab and glucocorticoids.

The withholding group also had significantly higher median anti-RBD immunoglobulin titers than did the group that continued therapy (125 vs. 7 U/L; P=.004).

Two patients who reported a flare of their underlying disease during the perivaccination period were treated with topical and oral glucocorticoids.

The patients who withdrew mycophenolate had taken it with twice daily dosing at a median total daily dose of 2,000 mg. They ended up withholding a median of 20 doses around the time of vaccination, with 54% withholding before, 38% both before and after, and 8% only after vaccination.

The researchers said that the conclusions that can be drawn from the study were limited by its small sample size, which “did not allow for evaluation of optimal duration of withholding therapy,” and also its “nonrandomized design, lack of data on cellular response, and limited information on dosing of other immunosuppressive agents.”

Three of the authors disclosed receiving consulting and speaking honoraria from Sanofi, Novartis, CSL Behring, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Veloxis, Mallincrodt, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. A fourth author has received consulting fees from Janssen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Mallinckrodt, EMD Serono, Allogene, and ArgenX.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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