ORLANDO, FL (American College of Rheumatology) — A new study shows that patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience a reduction in C-reactive protein, an important common blood test marker for inflammation and cardiovascular disease, while taking atorvastatin, as well as lower cholesterol and triglyceride (fat-like substances) blood levels, according to research presented this week at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting in Orlando, Florida.
This is the first study of this or any other lipid-lowering therapy in a randomized trial in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, who are at increased risk of heart disease because of widespread inflammation. Those patients who received the drug showed a significant reduction in C-reactive protein, an inflammatory agent associated with rheumatoid arthritis and predictive of cardiovascular disease, compared to those who received placebo.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study followed 116 patients who received medication or placebo for six months, at the end of which the DAS 28 (an arthritis activity score used mainly in Europe for the clinical assessment of rheumatoid arthritis; it is similar to the ACR 20, 50, 70 criteria for improvement), and blood concentrations of C-reactive protein and of other risk factors for heart disease were measured. Significant reduction in the DAS 28 score after treatment with atorvastatin was observed. Moreover, the study showed significant reductions in C-reactive protein levels (that measure inflammation), and lipid profile levels including total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, despite the chronic inflammation attendant with rheumatoid arthritis.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. (nearly 1,000,000 deaths annually), and affects one in five adults. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are twice as likely to develop serious cardiovascular disease.
“Statins are an exciting therapeutic opportunity for those of us treating rheumatoid arthritis,” said Professor Iain McInnes, Professor of Experimental Medicine and Rheumatology at the Centre for Rheumatic Diseases in Glasgow, United Kingdom and an investigator on the study. “Statins have the potential to reduce not only the increased risk of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis, but also may have direct effects on the inflammation that is the cause of the distressing joint damage and functional problems in these patients.”