People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who take a statin drug reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a study published in 2019 in Arthritis & Rheumatology. That’s important because having RA significantly increases the risk for developing and dying of CVD. Statins, which lower cholesterol, reduce CVD risk in the general population, but their benefit in RA patients had not previously been studied.
British researchers split 3,002 RA patients (who didn’t necessarily have elevated cholesterol) into two groups: Participants in one group took 40 mg of atorvastatin daily, while the other group received inactive placebo pills. Over a 2½-year period, the researchers recorded how many people in each group had heart attacks or strokes (including transient ischemic attacks, or “mini” strokes), died of any CVD-related cause, or required treatment (such as bypass surgery) to treat a clogged artery. The trial was stopped early when it became apparent that taking the statin reduced the risk for CVD “events” significantly.
Not surprisingly, the study found that atorvastatin significantly reduced users’ cholesterol levels. But the drug also reduced levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
Although atorvastatin proved safe, statin therapy isn’t for everyone. Ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for this heart-protective medication.