Statins Help with Cardiovascular Complications in RA Patients

A recent study, "Statin Use and Mortality in Rheumatoid Arthritis: an Incident User Cohort Study" published in the Journal of Managed Care + Specialty Pharmacy found that taking statins lowered the risk of death for rheumatoid arthritis patients.1

Risk of cardiovascular issues

Years of research has found people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) develop a higher risk for cardiovascular disease as a result of the inflammation from the condition.

While newer treatments may help suppress RA inflammation, the cardiovascular risks still remain. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for RA patients.1

Why study the use of statins?

Statins are known to reduce cardiovascular disease and mortality risks by improving the vascular system, lowering lipids, and acting as an anti-inflammatory.1

While previous studies found promising results, the goal of this new analysis was to expand knowledge about the impact of statins on RA patients in the United States.

Results of the study

The study looked at population data to compare RA patients who are taking statins and those who are not. Compared with no use of statins, current statin use is associated with 28 percent lower risk of mortality in RA patients.1

The authors also noted:1

Given the increased mortality risk in RA and contribution of cardiovascular disease to this risk, these findings provide support for raising awareness of the importance of statin therapy among decision-makers, health professionals, and people with RA.

My perspective as a patient

Although I’m only in my mid-forties, I have been aware of cardiovascular risks resulting from my RA for a very long time. It’s a topic I regularly discuss with my doctors and bring up looking towards prevention and early action.

The damage of chronic inflammation

As someone who has had RA since childhood, I’m running 40-plus years with high inflammation attacking throughout my body.

I’m well aware that my disease has damaged much more than I can see and am certain it will catch up to me in other ways in the (hopefully distant) future.

While in the last couple of years my C-reactive protein (CRP) levels have stayed at a record low due to being on a newer biologic that is very effective for me, I know it cannot undo the damage from inflammation that has been circulating for four decades.

Additionally, I believe from my personal experience of ongoing joint pain and stiffness, that there are other inflammation actions at work that we’re not currently able to detect and measure. It’s like the invisible man is still punching me even after knocking down one of his goons.

How I maintain my heart health

I’m pretty sure cardiovascular issues may arise in my future despite my best efforts, but I’m still going to keep up the good practices to try to maximize my odds.

For example, eating well and regular exercise are very important daily priorities. I also keep regularly bringing up these issues with my doctors to ask what have they learned, what more could I possibly do, and what signs should I look for.

I realize these problems may arise earlier for me and I want to be vigilant.

Statins may be an option

It’s really great to now know that statins could be an effective tool should I develop signs of cardiovascular problems.

I know statins can be highly effective in non-RA patients, so it’s reassuring to see the evidence that they can also help RA patients, despite the aggressive inflammation issues that we endure.

How do RA treatment options help in the long term?

While it’s not certain how they may help, I also have to believe the development of biologics and other strong anti-inflammatory treatments that we generally take may also help alleviate the RA inflammation that may attack our cardiovascular systems.

It may be that, with long-range studies, we find these medications are helping with some of these co-occurring conditions.

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