Statins should be given to all with RA

Risk of cardiovascular disease could be reduced if RA patients take cholesterol-lowering drug.

Statins should be given to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients to lower their increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), UK research suggests.

Patients with RA have an increased risk of developing premature CVD, which can shorten life expectancy by 18 years. It accounts for almost half of all deaths in patients with RA.

For this latest study, the researchers examined data compiled from nine studies that evaluated the effects of statin therapy in patients with RA.

A total of 4,430 RA patients were included in the studies, which involved giving patients a daily dose of either simvastatin or atorvastatin.

This showed that statin therapy could reduce levels of disease activity, swollen joint count and reduce levels of inflammatory markers, such as C-reactive protein, helping to lower CVD risk.

Lead researcher Dr Komas Paraskevas, from the vascular disease prevention clinic at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said: 'It is reasonable to include statin treatment in the management of patients with RA to reduce the CVD risk in this patient population.'

Dr Niel Amin, chairman of Standards of Arthritis Relief and a GP in Middlesex, agreed that it would be beneficial to give statins to RA patients.

'But it would be difficult for GPs to prescribe statins to RA patients in a systematic way unless RA was added into the quality framework,' he said.

'Then there would be a system in place to monitor statin prescribing in RA patients.'

But Dr Ahmet Fuat, a member of the Primary Care Rheumatology Society, warned that there was still a lack of evidence to suggest blanket statin prescribing to all RA patients.

'We need to run a full CVD risk assessment for each patient before prescribing statins,' he said.

Clin Rheum 2008; 27: 281-7

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